If you’re thinking of scooping up a cup of Ventura’s high-quality H2O, think again: The water from the storm system that moved through the county earlier this week will have produced streams of flowing mud, ash, debris and other pollutants on its way to the oceanand could be harmful to all it comes into contact with.

Normal rain events, which occur typically during the months of November through March for Ventura County and much of Southern California in general, wash away accumulated pollutants and debris, forcing county officials to issue a 72-hour warning against entering ocean waters for recreation. This year, Bill Hickman, the Southern California regional manager for the Ventura County chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, says he’s adding another 48 hours to that recommendation.

“I tried to get as much surfing in as possible over the week; I’m going to take off until next weekend,” said Hickman.

The reason: The Thomas Fire added an untold number of pollutants to the rainwater that will have ended up in streams and creeks that feed the Ventura and Santa Clara Rivers, which eventually run into the ocean.

“It’s going to bring nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous into the streams and river that could cause algae blooms that could deplete oxygen. Metals from burnt structures, soil and ash can accumulate in water and poison wildlife, mainly down in the creeks,” said Hickman. “Chemical flame retardants can leech ammonia to waterways, which can be toxic to fish, sometimes even in low concentrations.”

Surfrider works with Santa Barbara Channel Keeper to perform water testing in the Ventura River, and the last such test was performed prior to the Thomas Fire. Hickman says that the foundation will test the water in the following days and again in February.

As for the best way to handle rainwater runoff, regardless of whether or not it comes post-fire, Hickman says to utilize CPR: conservation, permeability and retention.

“Retaining more water, recycling more water; it’s a precious commodity here in Ventura and we need to take a hard look at long-term solutions.”