May 28, 2022
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Ventura County, Palmdale water districts team up

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United Water Conservation District’s Lake Piru reservoir in Ventura County (courtesy photo)

As the need for water increases in drought-battered California, one water district in the region is looking at pooling resources as the best strategy to meet those needs.

The United Water Conservation District, which oversees groundwater and other water resources in western Ventura County, has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Palmdale Water District “to share resources and work on large-scale projects that are of mutual benefit,” the districts said in Jan. 13 news release.

Mauricio Guardado, United Water’s general manager, told the Business Times the deal took a few months to come together. The first two projects the agencies will work on are in Palmdale, but there will be benefits down the road for Ventura County, he said.

“We have so many common interests and we can help each other with so many different things, like grant funding. We can help each other with water sustainability projects, using our strengths and resources collectively,” Guardado said. “When the board members started talking about that collective resource management, they got really excited about it.”

United Water, directly or indirectly, accounts for about two-thirds of Ventura County’s water supply, Guardado said, overseeing groundwater in the Santa Clara River watershed and the Oxnard Plain, along with the Lake Piru reservoir, the reservoir’s Santa Felicia Dam and the Freeman Diversion on the Santa Clara River.

Palmdale is in Los Angeles County, about 100 miles inland and 50 miles east of United Water’s Lake Piru. But two projects that have been greenlit already by the agreement will help the Palmdale Water District meet its needs.

The first is a water augmentation project, which treats recycled water from the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County for reuse purposes, something United Water already has experience with.

The other project the two sides will work on is a potential rebirth of the recreation area at Little Rock Reservoir near Palmdale.

“Little Rock in Palmdale is the community’s crown jewel, where everybody wants to be able to take their kids and have fun,” Guardado said.

United Water can lend its expertise, as it helped create the recreation area at Lake Piru, which now offers overnight camping, fishing, watersports, picnicking and other activities.

“When we can help each other develop these projects and secure funding to make sure the implementation of those projects occurs, it’s a win-win for everybody,” Guardado said.

Though the first two projects lean more toward helping Palmdale, Guardado said water policy efforts and grant funding proposals pursued through the agreement are something that will make a difference for Ventura County.

“We have resources in Ventura County, legislatively, and they have resources in the Antelope Valley that are different and bringing those people across the aisle to work together to help us develop better policies. It’s huge,” Guardado said.

The MOU also calls for engaging in transfers and exchanges of available State Water Project water, as both agencies are water contractors for the state.

United Water has also proposed a coastal brackish groundwater treatment plant at U.S. Navy Base Point Mugu, to combat seawater intrusion and treat aquifer salinity contamination. Groundwater that’s too salty, which can happen under a coastal plain like the one in the Oxnard area, is unsuitable for crop irrigation.

And, United Water treats water at the Freeman Diversion and is working with the city of Oxnard to improve its recycled water program.

“These are legacy projects for the future to ensure sustainability for Ventura County for years to come,” Guardado said. “These are really, really critical. These are not just one and dones. These are going to be projects that are going to help the region not just get through a drought, but be more drought tolerant.”