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In California, the permits for the use of recycled water are granted by the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) and its nine Regional Water Quality Control Boards (RWQCB). The Division of Drinking Water within the SWRCB sets and oversees the regulations for Drinking Water. These regulations are among the most stringent in the world. The permits incorporate conditions for the safe use of recycled water. Potable reuse is regulated to the same rigorous state and federal standards required for all drinking water.
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The City of Ventura relies entirely on local water supplies: the Ventura River, Lake Casitas, and local groundwater basins. In times of minimal rainfall and drought, water levels drop and these supplies become limited. Ventura, like other water providers throughout California, is looking for safe and sustainable ways to meet long-term water supply demands. Supplementing water supply with potable reuse is a proven, drought-resistant locally developed and reliable water supply.
Ventura Water has investigated other options in expanding the use of recycled water such as providing water to local agriculture or groundwater recharge, but these options involved constraints or drawbacks that did not fully benefit the local supply need. Potable reuse was shown to provide the largest amount of supply benefit for the City of Ventura.
Water conservation is always the first step in preserving the water supply. The City has been actively encouraging water conservation, having adopted a 20% reduction goal. Ventura Water offers free surveys, rebates and incentives, and is working to educate the community on ways to reduce water waste and limit usage. However, despite everyone’s best efforts, water conservation alone cannot meet all of the water demands and it cannot provide diversity of our water portfolio.
Wastewater is water that has been previously used by a municipality that has experienced a loss of quality as a result of use. In homes, water is commonly used for washing our food, dishes, clothes and bodies, and for toilet flushing. The used water that goes down the drain and pipes is called wastewater. Because a considerable amount of water is used to carry away a small amount of waste, wastewater is mostly water. In Ventura, wastewater flows through the collection system (pipes) to the Ventura Water Reclamation Facility near the Harbor where it is highly treated to water standards suitable for recycled water uses such as irrigation. A small portion of the recycled water is used on local golf courses and landscaping and the rest is discharged to the Santa Clara River Estuary.
Potable water is drinking water. Potable reuse refers to reused water you can drink after it passes through purification technologies. The water is treated to meet or exceed federal and state drinking water standards and can be used for human consumption.
Water purification produces high-quality drinking water using a multi-barrier advanced treatment process. Though technologies can vary, many systems use water purification that includes three processes: microfiltration, reverse osmosis, and ultraviolet light/advanced oxidation. Ventura Water is also investigating additional forms of purification to further ensure the safety of the water. Combined, these purification processes remove salts, bacteria, viruses and micro-constituents like pharmaceuticals and personal care products to produce water quality that is equal to or better than existing drinking water sources.
Ocean or seawater desalination is an option. However, creating pure water from saltwater comes at a price, and the biggest cost is in terms of energy and equipment. It requires significant energy to remove the salt from the ocean water, and there is much more salt to be removed than required to purify recycled water for potable reuse, meaning more equipment to filter out that salt. While potable reuse is anticipated to cost approximately $1,600 to produce an acre-foot of water, desalination can cost in excess of $2,500 to $3,000 an acre-foot, depending on the ultimate size of the full-scale treatment plant and distribution piping.