Low on water, but high on celebrity, Las Virgenes seeks wastewater purification facility

Aeration tanks at the Tapia Water Reclamation Facility in Agoura Hills. (Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

Dec. 15, 2022

The Las Virgenes district, which supplies about 75,000 people, is almost entirely reliant on imported water from the State Water Project, a vast network of reservoirs, canals and pipelines that feeds dozens of agencies across the state. But the district faces routine challenges during times of drought, especially when state officials are forced to slash their allocations.

In addition to the OceanWell pilot, Las Virgenes is also moving forward with plans for the Pure Water Project, a wastewater purification facility that will have the capacity to treat up to 6 million gallons per day and boost the region’s supply.

The combination could cut the district’s reliance on imported water in half, according to McNutt, the Las Virgenes spokesman.

“We’re now going to be one of the first to push forward this new technology that could have major impacts on long-term water reliability, with minimal environmental impacts, to the entire state of California,” he said. “Beyond that, we promised our communities after the last drought that we would look into desalination as a possible viable option to provide water to the service area so we wouldn’t go through what we did before.”

Funding for the pilot project will come from OceanWell, with Las Virgenes providing in-kind services, including the use of its 120-foot-deep reservoir for testing the technology.

Las Virgenes prides itself on its forward-thinking ethos, McNutt said. It was one of the first districts to install purple pipe recycling systems in the 1970s, and one of the first to reuse solid waste from its Tapia Water Reclamation Facility. During the most recent drought, the district designed custom flow-restrictor devices to reduce water to wasteful customers.

The OceanWell system “could really revolutionize using Mother Nature to benefit us without having to generate electrical costs and the corresponding greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.