2017-07-14 / Front Page

Desalter facility trickles forward

Plant will help make city less dependent on state for water
By Jessica Waite and Daniel Wolowicz

Camarillo is moving forward with its plan to build a water desalter facility near the Camarillo Library that’s intended to wean the city off of state-supplied water and save taxpayers millions in the years to come.

The City Council voted June 28 to submit a feasibility plan for the North Pleasant Valley Groundwater Desalter Project to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for grant funding.

The council voted July 12 to approve hiring a consultant to help the city get federal grants for about 25 percent of the approximately $30 million it’ll cost to build the desalter, which can make brackish—or salty— groundwater drinkable.

“A lot of people think ‘ocean water’ when they hear desalter,” said Tom Fox, assistant city manager. “It’s not. It’s groundwater.”

While the city can afford to build the facility without outside help, federal funding would lower water costs for Camarillo residents.

Fox said officials hope the project will break ground in fall 2018 and be finished later that year.

City Hall has been discussing the desalter for at least a dozen years.

At first, the facility will be able to provide enough water to customers served by the city, Fox said, adding that the long-term plan is to expand the desalter’s capabilities so it can deliver water to other agencies in the region.

In addition, the city would like to build a reservoir that would collect recycled water, which Fox said would cost between $1 million and $2 million. Funding for the reservoir would also come from federal grants, he said.

The city currently buys water from the state to mix in with groundwater drawn from the Pleasant Valley Basin. The combined water is safe to drink and pumped out to Camarillo homes.

The quality of groundwater coming from the basin, however, has declined over the years. The concentration of salt in the basin has dramatically increased, leading to a greater need for purchased water.

Officials say the desalter is expected to save over $10 million in the next 40 years because water from the state can fluctuate in cost and can spike from year to year.

“This is a key project to help restore water quality in the groundwater basin,” Fox said.

The next step for the city is to finalize the purchase of the 5-acre property north of Rancho Campana

High School from Oxnard Union High School District. Fox said the school district will likely respond to the city’s $600,000 offer for the property when its board of trustees returns from summer break in August.

In the meantime, the city manager will recommend to the council to begin a design contract. Designing the desalter facility is expected to take a year.

“This will protect the future of the basin,” Fox said.

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