Oxnard broke ground Tuesday on a $15-million water-treatment facility designed to help the city become less dependent on outside potable sources by cleaning up underground reserves.
The groundwater desalter is the first phase of a larger municipal project that will include an advanced wastewater-treatment plant and restoration of the wetlands at Ormond Beach.
More than 50 people, including Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara), showed up to herald the desalter, to be built at the city's water yard on South Hayes Avenue.
The overall project, dubbed GREAT for Groundwater Recovery Enhancement and Treatment, is designed to increase the city's water supplies, particularly during droughts, said Capps, who has introduced legislation to obtain additional funding for the project.
The desalter should be in operation by 2006 or 2007, said Anthony Emmert, the city's water resources manager. It's being financed primarily through 20-year bonds sold by the city's water department, along with developer fees and state and federal money.
The filtration system will initially be able to treat about 5,000 acre-feet of water a year, Emmert said. One acre-foot is enough to supply two average homes for a year.
The desalter will use a membrane to screen the brackish water under the Oxnard Plain, Emmert said. That water in turn will be mixed with cleaner water from other sources, as it is now, but less outside water would have to be used. "This project really gives us a lot more flexibility," Emmert said. "If we have a drought in another couple years and the state water project says you have to cut back, maybe this gives us the capability of having more."
Meanwhile, the water division plans $35 million in upgrades and additions to the city's wastewater treatment plant on South Perkins Road. The additions could produce up to 20,000 acre-feet of water a year suitable for agriculture, golf courses and landscaping.
The Groundwater Recovery Enhancement and Treatment project also includes the restoration and enhancement of the Ormond Beach wetlands, which provide habitat for a variety of migratory birds.