Thursday, May 9, 2013

McGrath State Beach flooding

This year's drought combined with the constant artificial flow into the Santa Clara River estuary have resulted in a flooded campground at McGrath State Beach.  As documented by the ongoing studies, up to 9 million gallons per day currently discharged from the City of Ventura's wastewater treatment plant create artificially high water levels in the coastal lagoon.  Winter floods naturally breach the lagoon, which then takes months to re-fill, but without significant river flows the sand berm keeps the rivermouth closed.  In 2010 an artificial breach resulted in rapid draining of the lagoon and death of steelhead trout and other endangered species.  (see Estuary breach kills fish)


This is just one symptom of a complex water management issue that begins at the Ventura River - this year the river has dried up at Foster Park, one of the the city's primary water supplies.  This water is piped to homes and businesses in the city, used once, and discarded as 'wastewater' which is treated and discharged into the Santa Clara River.  We continue to advocate for 'Integrated Water Management' that would increase water use efficiency though conservation and decentralized re-use.

Surfrider submitted written comments on February 28, 2013 that included this statement:

The Surfrider Foundation’s national ‘Know Your H2O’ campaign recognizes the importance of integrated water management as a solution to coastal problems. Many municipalities are responding to the global water crisis through the implementation of water recycling to diversify their water supplies. The SCRE Phase 2 study does an excellent job of identifying opportunities for wastewater reuse throughout the City of Ventura, and has identified a number of projects that may become components of an integrated water management strategy.
As we have commented previously, it is important to recognize that, on average, two thirds of the water discharged into the Santa Clara River Estuary comes from the Ventura River. The report notes that the city’s water supply is stretched thin, and this is evidenced in the current drought that has dried up the Ventura River, including the City’s wellfield at Foster Park. Cumulative impacts within the Ventura River have resulted in a 303d impairment listing for pumping and diversion. Therefore, a watershed-based strategy designed to restore instream resources and protect groundwater basins is essential to addressing multiple regulatory pressures and to ensure the long-term viability of the city’s water supply.
We agree with the general consensus from the stakeholder workshop that implementing Indirect Potable Reuse (IPR) and Direct Potable Reuse (DPR) within the City of Ventura is the highest and best use of the city’s wastewater. As discussed in the report, the Ventura River provides higher quality water than the groundwater on the East side. Therefore there is some merit to keeping Ventura River water within that watershed as proposed with the North side decentralized treatment plant. We also recommend that an East side decentralized wastewater treatment plant remain as a possible alternative in this strategy. This plant should be included in planning for urban expansion on the east side because treating and reusing water nearer its source would provide other long-term benefits. For instance, the location of the existing treatment plant within the floodplain of the Santa Clara River and an area of potential sea level rise inundation makes it vulnerable to catastrophic events that may require its relocation within the 50- to 100-year time frame. A citywide decentralized water reclamation system would reduce this vulnerability and limit the potential impacts from future flooding while increasing overall water use efficiency. 
...To summarize, we strongly support an expanded water-recycling program within the City of Ventura, but disagree with the analysis of habitat enhancement from the wastewater discharge into the Santa Clara Estuary. We encourage the City to continue to develop an integrated water management plan that considers the broader long-term benefits of increased water use efficiency.

In the news:
     A no-win situation in the McGrath State Beach flooding

More info: SCRE Special Studies -

On this blog:

Surfrider comment letter: