The Port Hueneme Water Agency is at the end of the line when it comes to the drinking water it receives from the United Water Conservation District’s Oxnard-Hueneme pipeline.
Because of the ongoing drought and out-of-service wells, the water received from United has degraded in quality. Port Hueneme’s Brackish Water Reclamation Demonstration Facility can no longer filter it without causing long-term damage to its system.
The levels of manganese and iron in water pumped from standby wells are so high they are choking and destroying expensive filters, officials say. It would cost millions of dollars to replace the filters at the reclamation facility.
At a special meeting last week, the Port Hueneme Water Agency, which serves the city of Port Hueneme, Naval Base Ventura County and the Channel Islands Beach Community Services District, heard a proposal from Kevin Alexander, a water expert from environmental engineering firm Hazen and Sawyer.
Alexander said his company offers a filtering system that could be used as an adjunct to the facility, although the costs would be high — anywhere from $6 million for a 300-gallon-per-minute system to much higher, depending on how much and what kind of water is pumped.
The Reclamation Demonstration Facility was shut down temporarily Oct. 11. To continue supplying its customers with water, the water agency has turned to its second, more expensive supplier, the Calleguas Municipal Water District. But that’s also expensive, and the water agency has to pay United for a certain amount of water, regardless of whether it uses that water.
Tony Emmert, deputy general manager for United, said the water it supplies to customers from nine wells in the Oxnard Forebay Groundwater Basin is vulnerable to nitrate contamination from past overuse of fertilizers and from septic system discharges in the area. The Port Hueneme Water Agency and the city of Oxnard are among the customers to receive that water.
Because nitrate contamination is a health hazard, United has turned to three backup wells, which dilute the water. But the backup well water is rich with manganese and iron.
Without the Port Hueneme Water Agency on the system, United has enough water to maintain a quality level for customers that would work in the treatment system. But when it adds the agency, United has to use the standby wells to provide water to all customers.
Port Hueneme Councilman Doug Breeze, who sits on the water agency panel, said the problem is frustrating because the majority of water users are agricultural clients. They use about 80 percent of the water but aren’t subject to the stringent conservation measures required of residential users.
The solution, everyone agrees, is to look into an additional filtration program, such as the one Alexander proposed. But the costs are high, and there are various regulations regarding the pumping of seawater, which could be used to help in filtration efforts.
The Port Hueneme Water Agency has formed an ad hoc committee to explore options.
Emmert, who recently started working for United Water after years with the city of Oxnard, said part of the problem is that when the water supply is sufficient, no one wants to discuss a multimillion-dollar filtration system that would be used only during drought periods.
“Ten years ago when we were building a brackish desalination plant, there was a discussion about adding more redundancy but no one wanted to spend an extra $10 million,” Emmert said. “This is exactly the situation that investment would have helped alleviate. We need to have a healthy discussion and keep these things in mind.”
Holiday shoppers are expected to spend more and be more altruistic this shopping season, according to the National Retail Federation.
Customers in recent years have been focused on getting discounts and deals to save money on needs for themselves. But an improving employment rate and less national fear regarding the economy have more people opening their wallets for others, said Kathy Grannis, a spokesperson for the National Retail Federation.
“It does appear as if consumers are taking that extra pocket power and putting it toward gifts for their friends and family,” Grannis said.
People celebrating Christmas, Kwanzaa and/or Hanukkah are expected to spend $804.42 on average compared to spending $767.27 last year, according to the National Retail Foundation’s survey.
The survey showed incremental increased spending on gifts for everyone from babysitters to family members.
The survey comes as the unemployment rate continues to tick down. The Labor Department reported unemployment is down to 5.8 percent.
People buying for themselves also might be in a better position to buy frills for themselves as opposed to needed items, Grannis said.
“We were in kind of this either/or economy where Americans didn’t have the ability to buy their discretionary purchases like clothing and jewelry and personal care and also invest in the larger tickets like appliances or autos or the larger electronics,” she said.
Beyond the economy, retailers are expected to benefit from a milder winter compared to last year, which made it difficult for some would-be buyers to escape the house.
“Weather has a tremendous impact on shopping in general,” Grannis said.