New developments could face water usage fees

By Chris O'Neal 06/05/2014

 

If you’re a developer in the city of Ventura, prepare to pay a fee for water if you aren’t coming with your own. The City Council will convene on Monday, June 16, for public comment on an ordinance that would impose a fee for potential water usage for developments in the city.


The city of Ventura has been examining every option for securing water, says Ventura Water General Manager Shana Epstein, which includes sourcing from the Ventura River, Lake Casitas and groundwater. Under California law, some projects are required to prove that they have access to a 20-year water supply. The city’s proposal would require almost all new developments to prove that they have a supply or pay the fee.


“There are not a lot of water rights around,” said Epstein. “One of the reasons why we weren’t able to be as diligent is because it was worth more to the property owners to sell their water rights than to hand it over to the city to develop their projects.”


For projects that have already been approved, Epstein says of water supplies that “we are very close” to maximum supply.


 “Every 10 to 20 years there are shortages, and our current supplies don’t withstand drought,” said Epstein. “We’re very close, we don’t have a good buffer so when you plan and you like to keep a little in the bank account, we don’t have a lot in the bank account.”


Epstein says that there is enough water to cover currently approved projects, but a lack of a buffer means that going forward new resources will need to be tapped.


“We will need another source to be reliable.”


Epstein says that the department is actively looking for more water supply sources, which could include purchasing water from the north, water re-use (reclaiming water from irrigation usage, the only permit the city has) and further developing the well field in Ventura River.


The one-time fee would be based on a per-acre basis. For those developments located in Zone 1, which includes the Casitas Municipal Water District, the city’s Foster Park groundwater and Mound Basin Direct Potable Reuse water, a fee of $10,686 per acre-foot would be assessed; while those in Zone 2, where only the city’s Foster Park groundwater and Mound Basin water are available, a fee of $15,538 per acre-foot would be imposed.


One acre-foot provides an estimated 326,000 gallons of water, enough to supply two to three family homes per year.


Some concerns over the proposal include higher infrastructure costs for current water customers, and developers who wish to construct in the city are asking why they will have to shoulder the cost, says Epstein.


“It’s incremental and based off of the demand of that project,” said Epstein. “No one new water supply project will be paid for just from the in-lieu fee or from current customers, it will be combined.”


Epstein says that the reason for the in-lieu fee is to assure that the city’s water resources remain intact and to offset the cost of finding and maintaining new water resources.


The Ventura City Council will host a public hearing on Monday, June 16, at 6 p.m. to discuss adoption of the ordinance.

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