A Clean Start In Ventura 2024

Heal the Bay and Wishtoyo Chumash Foundation have been collaborating to reduce impacts to the Santa Clara River Estuary from the Ventura Water Reclamation Facility since 2011, following a legal settlement (consent decree) with the City of Ventura. After more than a decade of scientific studies, bureaucratic negotiations, infrastructure planning, and a lengthy permitting process, we are excited that the VenturaWaterPure project is moving forward. The project will provide a net benefit to the estuary by reducing discharge of treated wastewater from the facility, which has a multitude of negative impacts on water and habitat quality in the estuary. 

On December 15, 2024, Heal the Bay joined our consent decree partners along with Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Michael Brain, to celebrate this water recycling and ecosystem restoration project. 

Heal the Bay’s Associate Director, Science & Policy (Water Quality) Annelisa Moe (left) attends the VenturaWaterPure press conference.

Under CA State law, discharging treated wastewater is considered an unreasonable use of that water, and is therefore illegal, unless it provides an environmental benefit. Unfortunately, based on conclusions from a Science Panel and Technical Advisory Committee, treated wastewater flow into the naturally brackish Santa Clara River Estuary does not benefit the ecosystem, but actually negatively affects it in a variety of ways: 

  • Decreases salinity variability, which is favorable for invasive species 
  • Increases levels of nitrate and other nutrients leading to low dissolved oxygen levels, which is harmful to the entire ecosystem 
  • Heightens the water level in the estuary leading to local flooding at McGrath State Park and unseasonal estuary berm breach events, which impedes public access and is harmful to native and listed species 

So the City of Ventura has committed to dramatically reduce their discharge to the estuary and limit nutrient loading in any remaining discharge through the VenturaWaterPure project. The project also offers a co-benefit of up to 1.76 billion gallons of new recycled water supply for the City of Ventura by 2032. This supports the human right to water using an approach that is environmentally protective and affordable, especially when compared to other methods such as importing water, or using ocean water desalination.  

Heal the Bay will continue to work closely with Wishtoyo Chumash Foundation and City of Ventura to ensure the transition to reduced discharge is protective of the estuary, that the new brine discharge to the ocean is done responsibly using the best available technology, and that the existing treatment ponds (which currently serve as important bird habitat) remain protected as part of the final VenturaWaterPure project.

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Read More:

Heal the Bay’s 2011 report on The Santa Clara River estuary

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland visits Ventura water treatment project, Ventura County Star