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ABC7 Solutions: City of Camarillo looks below the surface for water


Downtown Los Angeles has seen roughly 12 inches of more rain than in a normal season, but of the 10 driest seasons since 1877, four came within the last decade.

That's one reason why Camarillo spent $66 million to save money on water, looking below the surface for a new water source.

The long-running debate of desalination plants along the Southern California coast generally centers on the energy needed to process seawater and the potential damage to marine life. But Camarillo has avoided those pitfalls with their new de-salter plant, capable of producing almost four million gallons of drinking water per day.

"85% of the water that comes in, we turn into drinking water for an ocean de-salt application. They only get about 50% of the water they bring in turns into drinking water because of that elevated salt concentration," said Justin Pickard of Water Systems Consulting.

Camarillo will now get almost 60% of its water from their plant by treating brackish groundwater from the Calleguas Creek Watershed.

Water that is undrinkable, but has significantly less salinity than the ocean, making it more efficient to treat. The process also produces less brine and will save the city $50 million over the next 20 years in water costs.

"Imported water is expensive water," said Dave Klotzle, the Director of Public Works for Camarillo. "A huge series of aqueducts and pipes and very expensive pumping systems to get the water up and over the mountains, so that cost of water is higher than what our total cost of water is going to be over 20 years here."

An added benefit to taking water from the Calleguas Creek Watershed is that the water quality there is listed by the State of California as impaired due to pollutants in the water.

Water in the watershed contains unhealthy levels of, among other things, pesticides, metals, and ammonia from wastewater treatment plants upstream.

Treating millions of gallons of water per day at this plant will play a significant role in restoring the watershed. Most of this winter's rain will flow to the ocean and won't affect what's available in the watershed, but the success of this desalination facility might prove to be an example to other cities sitting on top of unusable groundwater.

"If they have the brackish water like we do, not all communities have that, but absolutely this is a way to make use of that unusable water for your own community and lessen your dependency on other sources," said Camarillo Mayor Susan Santangelo.

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