While Governor Brown recently proclaimed that California’s drought is over, serious water supply issues remain in Ventura County.  The City of Ventura and the Ojai valley are currently independent of the State Water Project, so rely entirely on local water supplies. While much of the state saw record-setting rainfall, Lake Casitas only had a modest increase from 35% to 43% of capacity and many local groundwater supplies are still stressed.

Surfrider Foundation’s efforts to protect local water supplies, manage waste and prevent pollution are all connected. Rather than focusing simply on water supply or ocean pollution, Surfrider aims to optimize how water is used from source to disposal. By taking a “watershed approach,” our Clean Water Program advocates for comprehensive and integrated water and land management. This approach solves downstream pollution problems and supports vital and healthy coastal communities and economies. Surfrider advocates for practical and environmentally sound solutions that can restore the water cycle and natural functions of coastal ecosystems to protect local water supplies and prevent pollution from reaching the ocean.

The first priority of water sustainability is Conservation – water is too precious to waste. Surfrider’s Ocean Friendly Garden program is a great example of this watershed approach. An Ocean Friendly Garden transforms the landscape through Conservation, Permeability and Retention (CPR). A mature Ocean Friendly Garden requires little municipal water for irrigation, and captures polluting runoff at its source. Restoring the landscape in this manner has a supply benefit, too—it helps recharge our groundwater supplies.

Recycling is the next priority once conservation efforts are maximized.  The City of Ventura is already a local leader in water recycling. The Ventura Water Reclamation Facility currently recycles 3% of total wastewater flow for irrigation of nearby golf courses, parks and similar landscape areas.  A new pilot project has demonstrated the potential for Direct Potable Reuse (DPR) of wastewater that is currently causing flooding and water quality problems in the Santa Clara River estuary.  Similarly, the City of Oxnard recently constructed the $80 million Advanced Water Purification Facility, which is a component of the GREAT Program.  Ventura County should continue toward potable reuse of wastewater using proven methods that are approved by the State of California and in use in places such as Fountain Valley and San Diego.

Because of the extended drought, local agencies are pursuing drought contingency planning, including building pipelines to extend State Water to the City of Ventura.  State water relies on the Sierra snowpack, which is predicted to become less reliable in the future.  Although State Water could provide an emergency backup supply, the cost and unpredictable allocations directed toward continued urban growth make this option questionable.

Another contingency plan under discussion is a plan by Casitas Water District to try to tap into deep aquifers.  Nicknamed HoBo, this project would drill a Horizontal Bore into the mountains behind Lake Casitas.  Questions remain regarding the availability of water and potential connections to springs and surface flows within the watershed.

Ocean desalination is the most costly and environmentally damaging drinking water supply, so should be avoided and only used as a last option if/when it is needed. Most proposed ocean desalination facilities in California utilize open ocean intake systems (that have been phased out for power plants), which cause marine life mortality through impingement (pinning and trapping fish or other species against the intake structure screens) and entrainment (when intake pipes suck in and kill small species like plankton, fish eggs, and larvae).  Desalination is also very energy intensive, creating a huge new energy demand and associated greenhouse gas emissions. Click Here for more info on ocean desalination.

Surfrider believes that our community can and should learn to live within the natural limits of our surroundings by optimizing the management of our most precious resource: fresh water.