by Council Member Christy Weir
Approximately 20% of Ventura’s municipal water comes from the Ventura River. Over the past 20 years, Ventura has decreased the amount of water taken from the river.
In 2014, Santa Barbara Channelkeepers, an environmental non-profit, alleged that the city’s use of the river water was unreasonable and harmful to the steelhead fish. The city agreed that the fishery was suffering, but proposed that the city alone could not solve the problem. Many other water users upstream impact the river, as well as the Matilija Dam, invasive plant species such as arundo that use lots of water and prevent fish passage, invasive fish species, and continuing drought.
The city is committed to working with other stakeholders in the watershed to address these impacts affecting steelhead, while aggressively implementing water conservation measures in Ventura. We are currently working with large water users to implement physical solutions such as arundo removal, new river gauges, and seasonal passage monitoring. Our partners are the Casitas Municipal Water District, Meiners Oaks Water District, Ventura River Water District and Rancho Matilija Mutual Water Company, as well as Taylor Ranch, Friends Ranches and Thacher School.
As part of the Channelkeepers lawsuit, the city was required by a judge to notify all of the users of river water, including residents of the Ojai valley, about the ongoing litigation, to provide them the opportunity to participate. Over 14,000 notices were sent to property owners who reside in the affected groundwater basins. Property owners who do not have a well are not required to participate in the lawsuit—they may ignore their notice. People who do have a well may choose to enter the case and collaborate to protect their rights by filing an answer to the notice, sometime in the next 6 months.
The goal of the City of Ventura is to work with other affected parties to protect all of our water rights, while taking steps to preserve the health and sustainability of the river and the fish.