On January 13, the Ventura Water Rate Advisory Committee presented its recommendations to the City Council. Following five public meetings, which included reviews of future operating and capital budgets and updates to other financial policies, the Committee endorsed a four-year water and wastewater rate plan. The proposed rates reflect a combined increase to the average residential water and wastewater customer of $9.68 bi-monthly (or $4.84 monthly) for the first year, proposed to be effective July 1, 2014. Rates would then increase incrementally at slightly higher amounts every July for the next three years.
If approved by our customers and the City Council, these rates will fund a moderate operational and maintenance program and an increasing capital improvement plan to replace aging pipelines and facilities. During the next four years, the new monies will replace three wells to help water supply and improve well field management operations. With an average age of almost 50 years,16.5 miles of the 380 miles of drinking water pipes are scheduled to be replaced. Treatment facilities will also be updated at the Water Reclamation Facility, and 7.2 miles of the 300 miles of wastewater collection system pipes will be replaced.
Before the City Council conducts a public hearing on rate increases (tentatively scheduled for May), we will offer an extensive outreach program to explain why the rates are needed for the water and wastewater systems. Replacing our infrastructure at the right time and at the right price represents an investment in our local economy and will prevent costly emergency repairs and service disruptions. A notice detailing the rates and the reasons for them, as well as the date and time of the public hearing, will be mailed to all customers and property owners in March.
Ventura Water’s call for a voluntary water use reduction of 10% from our customers was supported unanimously last night by the City Council with a 6-0 vote.
“Ventura River water levels are very low and Lake Casitas, another of our primary water sources, is at 60 percent capacity,” said Ventura Mayor Cheryl Heitmann in last week’s press release. “It is a sensible step to reduce water use now by raising awareness of the need to conserve water. Our community met this challenge during the 1990s drought and we expect Ventura to once again be an outstanding partner in preserving our water supplies.”
The City’s third water supply is groundwater. A number of wells are currently undergoing urgent maintenance, which is limiting management options. One replacement well is in construction but is not expected to be operational until the summer.
We will be watching our water supplies over the coming months and are planning to bring an action plan to the City Council this summer if further restrictions are necessary. Officials from the Casitas Municipal Water District have alerted the City that if the water level in Lake Casitas drops to 50 percent, then the water district will issue water allocations. Without rain, this may occur as soon as August or September.
“In an allocation situation, we expect that the City Council would declare a water shortage emergency and enact more stringent conservation measures,” said Epstein. “Of course, anything that our customers can do to reduce their water use now will help Ventura’s supplies in the long run.”
Students at Will Rogers Elementary School will learn from a living laboratory created on their campus last summer with the help of Midtown Ventura Community Council’s Adopt-A-School Project for 2013. To help prevent stormwater pollution and urban runoff, this partnership project replaced some of the school’s hard surfaces with an Ocean Friendly Garden, complete with a linear “bioswale.”A lesson in how Mother Nature cleans and returns water to the ground, the school’s bioswale, with its sloped sides and a depressed area filled by rocks, native vegetation, mulch and organic compost, will retain stormwater and trap pollutants and silt that would otherwise would travel to the ocean.
On Wednesday, October 2, the City of Ventura Fire Department joined Will Rogers Elementary School and other local community members to commemorate the newly landscaped areas, and to demonstrate how the new bioswale operates by releasing 500 gallons of water into the swale.
“The Midtown Ventura Community Council approached our PTA and teacher leaders with an opportunity to bring the bioswale project to our school,” said Will Rogers Elementary School Principal Danielle Cortes.“We worked as a team with the Ventura Unified School District facilities and leadership and involved the students and making everyone understand the importance of the bioswale — that it’s not just a garden and that it’s here to help keep our ocean clean.”
“We’re very excited that the Will Rogers Elementary School has been surrounded by the community,” said Trudy Arriaga, Superintendent, Ventura Unified School District.“As a result we have a beautiful example of community partnership at a bio-science academy with the children able to see how these natural systems work.”
The Midtown Ventura Community Council’s first Adopt-A-School Project began in 2011 with the painting of Blanche Reynolds Elementary Rainbow Ridge Playground.Solar lights were also installed in the playground.
“The idea of the Adopt-A-School Project was originally implemented to show the community, the schools, and the children, that the community cares about them.It’s something we could do to show our support as well as give the students pride in their school during these rough economic times,” said Dan Long, Board member of the Midtown Ventura Community Council Adopt-A-School Project.
Surfrider Foundation’s Ocean Friendly Garden Committee donated funds and many volunteers to work on the garden and bioswale.
“It’s all part of a focus of restoring the Sanjon watershed,” said Paul Herzog, Coordinator for Surfrider Foundation’s Ocean Friendly Gardens Program.“This area, which is actually a creek that has been covered up by hard surfaces, drains right out into the ocean. So, the more that we can do to on all these hard sites to sponge up water, to hold onto water and filter it, the more chance we have to maybe restore some of these creeks and have them flow again.”
The bioswale project was completed in two stages.In the first stage, Landscape Architect Brian Brodersen retrofitted the existing school garden turning this area into an Ocean Friendly Garden.The mature fruit trees were kept in place, native plants were planted and a path was added with a 100-foot long bioswale to capture the stormwater, which formerly ran into the street.
The second stage consisted of removing 300 square feet of asphalt to build a large swale. This large swale was enhanced with native plants and rocks.
A thank you and round of applause at the event was given to Will Roger’s First grade teacher, Kris Guzman, who was instrumental in facilitating the day’s activities. She was also acknowledged for her ongoing involvements with other programs to help green the school including securing a U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s Schoolyard Wildlife Habitat Grant.
In addition to the Midtown Ventura Community Council and Surfrider Foundation, other community members that played a key role in the bioswale project were:The Ventura Unified School District Board of Directors, Administrators and Maintenance Supervisors, Will Rogers PTA, David Ferrin, Arketype Architects, Ojai Quarry, EJ. Harrison & Sons, Ventura Rental Center, ZDwellings Construction’s Green Builder Jeff Zimmerman and Terry Leach, Agromin, M&M Landscapes, G3 Gardens Group, and City of Ventura Enviornmental Sustainability Division and Ventura Water .
Environmental Specialist Jill Sarick talks to a full house at the FREE Water Wise Class held Saturday, October 12 in Ventura.
The third class in the FREE Water Wise Gardening series, Urban Gold, takes place on Saturday, November 9, 2013 from 10:00am-11:30am at the City of Ventura Public Works Maintenance Yard, 336 Sanjon Road in Ventura.
Find out how to improve the water holding capacity and biology of your soil to create a health compost, compost teas and natural humates that improve soil vitality, the foundation of thriving gardens.
The Water Wise Gardening series has been extremely popular. Over 50 attendees have attended the last two class sessions.
The event is hosted by Aqua-flo and refreshments are provided.
October 23: Ventura Water Rate Advisory Committee Public Meeting The citizen Water Rate Advisory Committee will conduct its second public meeting at 6:00 p.m. at the City’s Sanjon Maintenance Yard. The committee is tasked with contributing community input to an update of Ventura’s Cost of Service study, the basis of water and wastewater rates. This effort will offer community members the opportunity to evaluate future customer rates based on 10-year financial plans which include operational costs (water supplies, electricity and treatment) as well as capital replacement and improvement projects for Ventura’s aging pipelines and facilities. For more information and agenda items when available, visitcityofventura.net/water/committee.
Planting climate-appropriate plants,flowers, treesand shrubs in your landscape translates into a landscape that needs less watering. Less watering helps save our natural resources and helps saves YOU money on your water bill.
This segment of the Sustainable Ventura TV Seriestalks with City of Ventura Environmental Specialist Courtney Lindbergabout how individuals can prevent stormwater pollution.
The Sustainable Ventura TV Series (May 2013 show), takes a trip to the Earth Day Eco-Fest in Promenade Park and visits with the Refill Shoppe in downtown Ventura to find out about their reduce, reuse and refill policy. Courtney Lindberg, Enviornmental Specialist with the City of Ventura, talks about preventing stormwater pollution. The show also takes a trip to the Ventura County Medical Center (VCMC) to look in on their new recycling programs.
Sustainable Ventura, hosted by Maryann Ridini Spencer and Ray Olson, airs on Caps-TV VTV’s Channel 15, Thursdays at 8:30pm. It rebroadcasts Monday-Thursday and Saturdays at 9:00am, Sundays at 8:30pm and every other Wednesday at 8:30pm.
Water System Pressure Monitoring Stations
Design efforts are nearly complete for the installation of 20 water system pressure monitoring stations throughout the City. These stations will improve the remote monitoring of the water system and provide valuable “real time” information to water system operators.
The California Department of Public Health requires that at least 40 pounds per square inch (psi) of pressure be maintained at all times throughout the water system to prevent contaminants from entering water pipes. The monitoring stations will help identify pressure trouble spots quickly so that corrective actions can be taken immediately. If a particular station detects that the pressure is dropping close to the 40 psi minimum, operators can manually turn on another groundwater well or fill up a water storage tank. The stations will also help troubleshoot the location of a pipe leak that may be causing low-pressure issues. At a total project cost of $600,000, the stations will be primarily underground vaults in the street or in parkways between the street and sidewalks and will be equipped with small radio antennas to relay pressure data to the water system.
This article first appeared in Ventura Water’s newsletter, Pipeline, April 2013.