It’s easy to take for granted what seems to be in unlimited supply. Americans are quite privileged with seemingly free-flowing water supplies. We can take as many baths as we want. We can wash our car every day of the week. We can overwater our gardens and refill our pools. And while the tiered rates may be prohibitive for over using our water supplies, is the price high enough to make us think twice about how we are using it?
In early May, Mike Solomon, general manager of the United Water Conservation District, announced that groundwater levels were the lowest in years. The district manages groundwater supplies for 340,000 customers in Ventura County. Lake Piru, which can hold more than 100,000 acre-feet, is at about 20,000 acre-feet for the simple reasonthat we didn’t get much rain over the winter season. Dave Souza, general manager of Pleasant Valley County Water in Camarillo, also reported that levels were down at 11 wells and one booster pump has “sucked air,” resulting in dire straits for the district’s 38 growers. He called the situation “our doom and gloom.” To further complicate the situation, California experienced a record-dry January and February, and the water content of the state’s snowpack is 17 percent of normal.
Last week, Ventura’s water agency released a report, the Comprehensive Water Resource Report, that detailed the city’s fragile future with its water supply and noted that, by 2017, it could be overtapped. Yet, on Monday, Ventura County Superior Court Judge Mark Borrell ruled in favor of allowing residents to vote to approve or reject a tax that would be used by a new community facilities district to buy Golden State’s franchise in Ojai. A group of Ojai residents wanted the opportunity to switch to Casitas because they found that Golden State rates would increase by more than 100 percent from 2008 to 2015, and that their current rates are higher than other Ojai residents in another district. While Golden State has insisted the franchise is not for sale and that the rate increases and the cost of water are justifiable, Ojai residents did not agree. The irony here is that though there may be a greed factor with Golden State, with water costs going so high, perhaps that may be the only way to get people to change their water usage.
It’s clear that Ventura County residents, growers, business owners, etc., are on the verge of a crisis. While we haven’t heard the emergency call yet — rationing — there is no excuse in defaulting to willful ignorance when the alarm goes off. We are encouraged by the fact that the city of Ventura has adopted a water supply-and-demand report this week, in an effort to scrutinize the situation and carefully plan for the future. It is, however, a bit distressing that we don’t have a plan in place now to deal with the shortages in the United Water Conservation District and the Pleasant Valley County Water district. It’s hard to imagine what condition those two districts will be in next year.
The status quo has to change. We encourage residents to attend council meetings and become informed. We can’t be our own doom and gloom when we can all take steps to use less water and lessen the possibility of a crisis.