The Las Virgenes Municipal Water District is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year amid one of the hottest summers on record. How the district keeps the tap open and manages the resource that allows every person to stay alive has become a topic of utmost concern.
Last week, U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Los Angeles) and state Sen. Henry Stern (D-Calabasas) visited the area to take a tour of the district’s pumps, plants and facilities.
Lieu represents California’s 33rd Congressional District, which stretches from Malibu to Rancho Palos Verdes and includes Agoura Hills and Calabasas. Stern is California’s 27th senator, which includes Calabasas, Agoura Hills and Westlake Village.
Both have been on the forefront of resource conservation.
“Your average citizen just wants to know they can turn on their tap and get water, or irrigate without thinking very hard about how does it all happen,” Lieu said. “It was very informative for us all to see how this all happens.”
Lieu and Stern were joined by former state senator Fran Pavley, also the first mayor of Agoura Hills; Calabasas Mayor Fred Gaines and City Councilmember David Shapiro; and Agoura Hills Mayor Pro-Tem Linda Northrup.
“We’d been wanting to showcase all of our facilities and show where we’re headed in the future,” Mike McNutt, public affairs and communications manager for the district said.
“Back in March, I think, we went to Washington D.C. to talk about different things affecting the water district. We met with the congressman’s staff and offered a tour, and also offered a tour to some of his local staff at another meeting.”
The group followed the flow of water through the district, starting at the Tapia Water Reclamation Facility in Malibu Canyon, which treats an average of 9.5 million gallons of wastewater a day. About 20 percent of the water delivered by LVMWD is recycled at the Tapia facility and reused for irrigation.
The biosolids removed during treatment at the Tapia plant are treated and composted at the Rancho Las Virgenes Composting Facility on Las Virgenes Road. It takes 36 days for the material to become usable compost, which the districts gives free to the public every Saturday.
Finally the tour visited the Las Virgenes Reservoir in Westlake Village, which holds a six-month supply of drinking water.
Las Virgenes’ General Manager David Pedersen explained the various processes by which the district imports water from northern California, and how wastewater is treated and purified for reuse.
Pedersen also discussed the planned Pure Water Project, a joint effort between the Las Virgenes Water District and the Triunfo Sanitation Board. The $120-million project calls for the construction of a purification plant to turn recycled water into drinking water. Both Las Virgenes and Triunfo are entirely dependent on supplies imported from Northern California, and the Pure Water Project would allow the two organizations to reduce that dependence by treating surplus recycled water.
At the end of the tour, Lieu thanked district staff and promised to look into securing federal funding for the Pure Water Project.
“I’ve toured a number of water districts (and) I’ve gone on Metropolitan Water District Tours, partly because my wife, Betty, is a Torrance water commissioner, so I get to go on these cool trips. When I was in the state Assembly I was on (the)Water, Parks, and Wildlife committee. I learned back then that water is enormously complicated,” Lieu said. “But it’s so important to California.”
The Las Virgenes Municipal Water District was founded in 1957 after the wells supplying water to Hidden Hills ran dry. Residents voted to join the Las Virgenes Water Committee to acquire water from the Metropolitan Water District.
The district built the Las Virgenes Reservoir in Westlake Village in 1974. The reservoir holds a six-month supply of treated drinking water for customers in Agoura Hills, Calabasas, Hidden Hills and Westlake Village.
The district serves over 65,000 customers with potable water, wastewater treatment, recycled water and biosolids composting.