CALABASAS, CA — Las Virgenes residents taste-tested the purest water around on Saturday — in the form of gelato made from ultra-filtered recycled water. The event showed off a massive and ambitious water treatment project, which ultimately aims to generate 20 percent of the region’s water amid an unflinching Southern California drought.
Beloved local sweets shop Tifa Chocolate and Gelato whipped up sorbet and gelato using purified water from the Pure Water Project’s demonstration facility located at the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District in Calabasas.
Hundreds of local residents on Saturday taste-tested water that had gone through the facility’s intensive treatment process, took tours of the facility, played games such as Jenga and four-square and got their faces painted.
“This is the second of three events that we’re having that’s sorbet and gelato, making people aware of the everyday uses of water, including pure water. Again, it’s just as safe or even safer than normal drinking water,” said Joe McDermott, Director of Engineering and Public Affairs for the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District.
The Pure Water Project is preparing a full-scale facility, which will eventually produce six million gallons of drinkable water per day, McDermott said. This would provide up to 20 percent of the district’s water supply. The facility will be located in Agoura Hills and is expected to be up and running in 2028. The Pure Water Project is an initiative of the Las Virgenes-Triunfo Joint Powers Authority.
The district, which currently imports 100 percent of its drinking water, has faced intense drought conditions in recent months.
The region’s two key sources of water are Lake Oroville, which was at 48 percent of its water capacity in April, and the Northern Sierra snowpack, which was only at 15 percent of normal capacity in April, according to the district.
Residents have cut usage down to one-day-per-week outdoor watering and had their unique outdoor water allocations reduced by 50 percent.
The district was also recently denied its request for additional water given the region’s high fire risk.
“What we’re really trying to highlight is this is a [reality] — not just here but anywhere in Southern California, any place that has water supply constraints like we do right now. This is a new water supply, and this will provide — at the full-scale facility — up to 20 percent of our water needs,” McDermott said.
The facility will lengthen the existing lifespan of local water resources. Currently, water that is used in local homes is retreated and made safe enough for uses like landscaping before it eventually washes out into the ocean as runoff, according to Riki Clark, Public Affairs Associate for the district. This treatment will take that already treated recycled water and purify it through a three-step process, starting its life cycle over again, Clark said.
The water that comes out is free of 99.999 percent of any contaminants, Clark said. Clark hosted facility tours at Saturday’s event
“It is truly more pure than anything else that’s out there, it’s very safe and we feel good about it. This is the future,” McDermott said.
The district handed out goodies and practical items at Saturday’s event, like buckets to catch extra water in the shower or while washing dishes. Agoura Hills resident Lauri Markson encouraged her neighbors to make small changes to contribute to conservation. The changes such as keeping a bucket in her shower to catch excess water and using that water for plants and flushing her toilet are easier than many people think.
The district hosted an event featuring coffee made with pure water, and will host a beer event in the fall.