Oxnard– The Public Works & Transportation Committee, Tuesday, July 12, took a virtual tour of the City’s water campus and was impressed.
When the Covid-19 crisis peaked, the Water staff stopped its tours and educational outreach to the schools and community to help stop the spread of the pandemic.
Water Division Manager Omar Castro said the Water Division implemented a contactless conservation curbside pickup to help customers conserve water and save money.
“Water staff made a commitment to City Council to develop an educational Water Division Virtual Tour,” he said. “The Water Division worked with Serial Creative Group to create the tour, and there are no financial impacts in receiving this report.”
He said the City captures raw water from the environment, cleans it to a drinking water standard, and distributes it to the customer.
“The process may sound easy enough, but it actually requires a lot of science, physics, chemistry, technical knowledge, and mechanical skills to provide you with these essential resources,” he said. “The Oxnard City Council realized early on that the City needed a game plan to always make sure that we have a safe and reliable source of drinking water. Especially when you the major challenges caused by the amount of water we use, the repeated droughts, climate change, and other environmental factors.”
Castro noted that the City’s highly trained staff and state-certified technicians and operators are available 24/4 and provide quality service to customers, which he called the highest priority.
Water Resources Manager Abraham Maldonado manages the 25 million gallon Water Division supply that serves more than 200,000 Oxnard residents, along with schools, parks, hospitals, and some nearby agricultural customers.
“In order to meet all these needs, Oxnard gets its raw water supplies from different sources,” he said. “Some of our imported surface water comes from snowmelt in Northern California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains.”
He said the water travels over 500 miles through the State Water Project’s engineered reservoirs, pipes, wells, and other infrastructure.
“This precious water supply is shared by millions of people in California,” he said. “The amount we get is limited and very expensive. Our other sources of water come from local groundwater supplies pumped out of the naturally occurring aquifers in Oxnard and the surrounding areas. This groundwater is locally managed, so it’s easier to manage and less costly than imported water.”
Maldonado said the water is a limited source and is regulated, which controls the amount of water pumped from the Oxnard basin.
“The imported water source is blended with local groundwater supplies to ensure a safe and reliable water supply,” he said.
Operations Manager Chris Payton said the highly trained and certified staff ensures that the groundwater regulating flows and treatments are properly blended.
“Some of the groundwater we pump out of the local aquifer is very high in minerals and salts after the groundwater is pumped out of the wells,” he said. “After the groundwater is pumped out of the wells, it’s pre-treated and sent to the groundwater desalter. The desalter uses reverse osmosis to produce ultra-pure water, which is then blended with other City water sources.”
After additional treatment and disinfection, he said the water gets extensive testing and sampling.
Water Regulatory Compliance Manager Richard Maria told the viewers the team ensures that Oxnard’s drinking water meets and exceeds all the state and local drinking water regulations.
“Many of the regulations that we are required to follow are actually more stringent than those for bottled water,” he said. “We conduct more than 3,700 water tests each year for about 300 different constituents and are required to report this information to the State Water Board’s Division of Drinking Water. Testing is done through a combination of in-house and third-party laboratories.”
He said the Water Division is required to provide an annual Water Quality Report in compliance with Federal and State regulations and is available on the City’s website.
Water Distribution Senior John Hammons said the team makes sure that Oxnard delivers high-quality drinking water from its treatment facilities through its distribution system and provides 24/7 emergency response for customer emergency shutoffs, leaks, water main breaks, and other emergencies.
“We also install, maintain and replace mains, valves, pumps, and other essential equipment,” he said. “Maintenance is important because it helps keep our equipment and infrastructure working well and for longer.”
Senior Meter Reader Melissa Slate said the metering staff reads and records the water used by over 40,000 customers monthly.
“The information captured by our automated meter reading system is used for utility billing and can help you monitor your own water usage,” she said. “It is also one of the many tools that help the City comply with state water conservation mandates.”
Additionally, she said the meter reading team is responsible for customer calls about leaks, historical water use, or other customer concerns.
Water Conservation and Outreach Supervisors Meagan Schneider said everyone helps the City meet its water challenges in the future.
“Being water-wise is one of the best ways to make sure that we have enough water to meet our essential needs,” she said. “Your ongoing efforts, like taking shorter showers and replacing older appliances with high-efficiency models, checking and fixing leaks, and planting California-friendly gardens, make a big impact in conserving water.”
After the video, Committee Member Vianey Lopez said it was great to see the presentation.
“I’m glad we were able to play it here today because there are a lot more people it can benefit,” she said. “I think this video brushes over the basics of water which is so important, especially right now as we’re trying to conserve and be more cautious in our usage. I do hope more people can take a look at it (the video) and if there are other educational opportunities to continue to inform and educate our residents about the work the Water Division does and the work that Public Works does as a whole. These are the pieces that help keep the City running.”
Committee Member Mayor John Zaragoza called it a great video, and he wanted to know if the video is available in Spanish.
“What we’re doing is putting the subtitles in Spanish so as we play the video, our Spanish-speaking people can understand,” Castro said.
Zaragoza noted that the City of Oxnard Water is safer than bottled water, and Castro said their water regulations are more stringent.
“I drink tap water all the time, and I’m still okay,” Zaragoza said. “I’ve been in Oxnard all my life.”
He noted that blended water along with the water from United is important because of the expense.
“It’s almost $2,000 for an acre-foot of Calleguas and maybe another $1,000 for United,” he said.
Castro said state water costs about $1,380 per acre-foot.
“United runs around $1,200,” he said. “Our least expensive water, our water, runs about $700 an acre foot.”
Chairman Bert Perello said people who have come from other counties know that drinking tap water can be a little risky and buy water from a vending machine.
“They’re better off taking the water from the tap in the City of Oxnard,” he said. “It’s completely safe, higher than the minimum standards. Someday, the water we are treating at the reclaimed site, which is cleaner and purer than the tap water, will be potable water.”
To help save water, visit OxnardWater.org.