Santa Clara River Estuary Special Studies


The City of Ventura is bordered by the Santa Clara River to the south and the Ventura River to the north.




Current Information

Stakeholder MeetingsReports  I  Items Of Interest

Santa Clara River Special Studies Overview

In order to keep our community safe and healthy, Ventura’s Water Reclamation Facility (VWRF) treats the wastewater generated by the City’s 30,000 homes and businesses to stringent standards before releasing the clean water to the Santa Clara River Estuary (Estuary). This water is regulated with a permit issued by the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB), which is renewed every five years. During the 2008 re-issuance process, controversy arose on whether or not the City should be permitted to continue its current volume of water released into the Estuary.

While some parties wanted the RWQCB to revoke the existing exemption to State water policy, which allows the discharge, others, including resource agencies such as NOAA Fisheries and California Department of Fish and Game, did not want any decrease in the amount of the current discharge until all alternatives were evaluated thoroughly to allow for the best ecologically sustainable alternative since the discharge supports the Estuary’s endangered species and enhancement of its habitat value.

Therefore, the Discharge Permit issued by the RWQCB allowed continuation of the discharge but required Ventura Water to perform three extensive studies which include:

The special studies along with the associated stakeholder processes are designed to provide information necessary to support development of a sustainable discharge regime. In the end, these studies will result in the issuance of a Discharge Permit for the future that will allow the City to utilize its recycled water as a valuable resource, balancing this benefit with the additional environmental benefits of sustaining the critical habitat for endangered species in the Estuary.

Ongoing Efforts and Next Steps

In April 2009, the City hired the consulting team of Carollo Engineers and Stillwater Sciences to perform the special studies. The consulting team spent several months collecting data to determine what information was missing in order to create a monitoring plan to addresses needed information. The missing information is summarized below in the Estuary Subwatershed Study Data Gaps Table. The Final Estuary Monitoring Plan is available below for review.

A series of five workshops were held from 2009 to February 2011, in which the results of the three studies were discussed.  The Recycled Water Market Study and the Treatment Wetlands Feasibility Study were submitted to the RWQCB in March 2010 as required by the NPDES permit.  The submitted reports are available as links below.  

The City has began Phase 3 of the Special Studies with a Kickoff Meeting in November 2014.  As part of Phase 3 additional estuary sampling will be conducted over the next two years and data will be evaluated to answer some of the remaining questions from Phase 2.  Also, studies will be conducted to look at 100% diversion of the wastewater plants effluent, brine disposal and selection of a preferred alternative.  In addition, a direct potable reuse pilot will be constructed and run at the Ventura Water Reclamation Facility in 2015.

Interconnect Option Feasibility Study Underway

Kennedy Jenks Consultants is currently preparing a feasibility study for another option that incorporates regional benefits: discharging treated effluent from the VWRF to the City of Oxnard’s Advanced Water Purification Facility (AWPF).  The desalted water is envisioned to provide beneficial reuse as a seawater intrusion barrier through groundwater injection as well as reuse for irrigation.  This option will also include investigating discharge to the City of Oxnard’s ocean outfall and/or the Salinity Management Pipeline being constructed by Calleguas Municipal Water District.  All three interconnection locations are within the same general vicinity. This alternative would require approximately 10 miles of pipeline to transport treated effluent from the VWRF to the interconnect location(s) in Oxnard. This alternative has the potential to provide Ventura Water and other local agencies with regional groundwater benefits and may have lower operation and maintenance costs when compared to other alternatives to reuse the treated water.

Participant Resources

Related Reports

Tidewater Goby Reports

Santa Clara Estuary Phase 3 Studies

Santa Clara Estuary Phase 2 Studies

Final Santa Clara River Estuary Subwatershed Study

Comments to Final Estuary Subwatershed Study

The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board approved the extension of comments to the March 6, 2011 Final Report  to July 15, 2011.  

The following are comment letters received by Ventura Water.

 Event Information

Stakeholder Meetings:

November 3, 2015 - Phase 3 Meeting materials

November 19, 2014 - Phase 3 Kickoff Meeting materials

February 21, 2013 stakeholder meeting materials:

October 31, 2012 stakeholder meeting materials:

July 18, 2012 stakeholder meeting materials:

In addition, several people were interested in the CDPH powerpoint slides.  The draft regulations and associated background documents, including several CDPG presentations, can be found at:

August 18, 2011 stakeholder meeting materials:

February 10, 2011 stakeholder meeting materials:

Sept. 28, 2010 stakeholder meeting materials:

Feb. 2, 2010 stakeholder meeting materials:

Nov. 10, 2009 stakeholder meeting materials:

July 15, 2009 stakeholder meeting materials:

Order/Permit Documentation

Ventura Water is currently discharging up to 14 million gallons per day of tertiary treated wastewater from the Ventura Water Reclamation Facility, under an order/permit from the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality
Control Board which includes:

  1. Waste Discharge Requirements Package
  2. Attachment G & H
  3. Attachment I
  4. Attachment K
  5. Attachment L
  6. Attachment M (Summer)
  7. Attachment M (Winter)
  8. Attachment N

For More Information

If you are interested in participating, or have questions regarding information posted on this website, please contact Gina Dorrington at

Last Updated: 01/12/2016