Protecting Local Water Resources
Why did Santa Barbara Channelkeeper sue the City?
In September 2014, Santa Barbara Channelkeeper (Channelkeeper) filed a lawsuit challenging the City of Ventura’s water rights to the Ventura River. Channelkeeper is concerned about the decline of the steelhead trout in the Ventura River, and demanded that the City, among all the users of Ventura River water, reduce its use of Ventura River water. The City is also concerned about the steelhead, but believes any solution must consider other water uses, and opportunities to improve the protection of the steelhead and enhance water supplies.
Why was a cross-complaint filed?
In the litigation, Channelkeeper singled out the City’s use of the Ventura River, although there are many other users of Ventura River water and groundwater that contributes to the River water. The City named all water users in its cross-complaint to protect its water rights and to ensure that everyone is part of the solution in the event that cutbacks are needed for sensitive species and habitat. Legally, in order to determine water users’ respective rights, all users must be parties to the same lawsuit. For this reason, the City named many cross-defendants. This is not a step that was taken lightly and only because it is necessary to protect the City’s ability to serve its community.
Where does Ventura get its water?
The City of Ventura is one of the largest cities in California that relies exclusively on local water supplies from three primary sources: the Ventura River, Lake Casitas, and groundwater basins. The City manages its water portfolio of three distinct sources based on the availability from each source.
Who else has interests in Ventura River water?
A number of water suppliers, mutual water companies, and private landowners extract from the Ventura River Watershed for municipal, industrial, and agricultural uses.
Historically, how has the City used the Ventura River as a water source?
The City has exercised its water rights on the Ventura River for more than a century. In fact, the City’s first water system was an aqueduct that conveyed water from the Ventura River to a reservoir located behind the Ventura Mission. Today, water from the Ventura River is diverted through the City’s Foster Park facilities and treated at the City’s Avenue Water Treatment Plant. The extraction facilities include a subsurface intake and three shallow wells within the Ventura River riparian corridor. This source has provided a large portion of the City’s total water supply for generations and is critical to the City’s ability to reliably serve its residents and other users.
How has the drought impacted water supply from the Ventura River?
Due to the continued drought conditions and heightened environmental requirements, the City’s ability to draw water from the Ventura River has been significantly challenged. The City has seen a decrease in the production from its subsurface and groundwater extraction wells for many years. Under the current drought conditions, the City’s water supply from the Ventura River is projected to be approximately 2,384 AFY for calendar year 2018, compared to a normal (non-drought) supply of 4,200 AFY.
What steps will be taken to protect this vital water source?
The City wants to be pro-active and is working to develop solutions to the competing interests in the Ventura River Watershed. The City would prefer to resolve these issues with all the stakeholders without lengthy litigation, and recognizes that only if all interests work together can we resolve these critical challenges.
How has the City maintained environmental stewardship of water resources?
To reduce its water needs, the City has been a leader among municipalities in encouraging water conservation. The City offers a number of tools designed to help customers meet water conservation goals including a turf replacement rebate program, weather-based irrigation controllers, high efficiency sprinkler nozzles, free water efficiency surveys and more. In 2017, the City reduced its water usage by 23% when compared to 2013 (pre-drought). The City is committed to environmental sustainability and will continue to be a good steward of local water resources.