LVMWD’s Pure Water Project on the move

LIKE MAGIC—New technology depicted in this rendering allows recycled water to become drinking water. Courtesy of Las Virgenes Municipal Water District

LIKE MAGIC—New technology depicted in this rendering allows recycled water to become drinking water. Courtesy of Las Virgenes Municipal Water District

It’s commonly known that local communities rely on water imported from the north, but part of the supply that travels hundreds of miles to get here often winds up going down the drain.

Now, the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District is working to put the area’s recycled wastewater back to work.

LVMWD and its partner agency, Triunfo Sanitation District, have formed an alliance to build the Pure Water Project, a $120-million purification plant on Agoura Road in Agoura Hills that will treat the recycled sewer water normally released into local streams and return it to the customer in the form of perfectly safe drinking water.

But officials want to make sure the public is on board with the new plan, so they’re building a small-scale demonstration plant first. The $3-million mock-up of the future Pure Water plant will be installed at LVMWD headquarters on Las Virgenes Road in Calabasas.

“The project has two purposes. One, to demonstrate to the public that we can do this safely and effectively. The other is to reduce the long-term cost of the (full) project,” LVMWD general manager David Pedersen said.

“Some of the information that we learn through the demonstration project will help reduce the cost of the larger project. We’re going to make the demo plant so that we can test different types of treatment membranes and see how well they function and compare that with their costs, so we can do some optimization in the long term,” Pedersen said.

Construction on the Calabasas demonstration plant will start in the spring and be completed by fall of 2019. The main Agoura Hills plant will is expected to be finished by 2030.

Pedersen said the public is coming around to the idea of drinking recycled waste water, but that there are still people who turn their noses up at the idea. The demonstration plant is one way to convince them that the new technology can work.

The demonstration plant, which has the ability to treat between 50 and 100 gallons a minute, will be paid for through customer bills and government grant money.

“We’ve received one grant and we’re working to get more. My hope is to offset half the cost but it’s premature to speculate,” Pedersen said. “The project is one that’s perfectly suited for grant funding, but there’s a lot of competition for these kinds of things, so we’re going to do our best to get federal and state grants.”

The two agencies comprise the Las Virgenes-Triunfo Joint Powers Authority, which is responsible for treating all wastewater that drains into the Malibu Creek Watershed.

The Pure Water Project comes as a result of new regulations by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that puts strict limits on the quality of wastewater discharged into the watershed.

Reclaimed sewer water flows out of the Tapia Water Reclamation Facility on Las Virgenes Road and into Malibu Creek. Recycled water that cannot be sold for use on parks, golf courses and public median landscaping is released into the watershed.

The Las Virgenes and Triunfo districts had a choice of making a large investment in the Tapia plant to meet the new federal clean water standards, or building an entirely new plant that takes the unwanted effluent and turns it into valuable drinking water. They chose the latter.

Once the main Pure Water plant on Agoura Road is build, it will help the region make it through periods of drought without having to rely solely on supplies from the north.