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THE DROUGHT : Oxnard Supports Water-Rationing Plan


The Oxnard City Council on Tuesday endorsed a water-rationing program that mandates 10% cutbacks for all residences, businesses and government facilities, and 30% cutbacks for agricultural users.

"This is a tough proposal, but these are tough times," Oxnard Mayor Nao Takasugi said. "I don't see an alternative, so we'll have to buckle down and adopt a restrictive program."

The water-rationing plan, which is scheduled to take effect March 1, was initiated in response to a mandate by the city's main water provider, the Metropolitan Water District, which imports water from Northern California through the State Water Project.

The city will hold a public hearing Tuesday to discuss the proposed rationing ordinance.

City officials would base the water reductions on past water use and penalize excessive users with fines. Although the MWD is basing its allocations on the 1989-90 fiscal year, the city has not yet decided which year to use as a base line.

Repeat offenders would have a flow-restricting device installed in their homes.

The program would also change the billing system from bimonthly to monthly, and customers would be given a one-month adjustment period before penalties would take effect.

On Jan. 8, MWD, which provides two-thirds of Oxnard's water, ordered its customers to reduce residential and business water consumption by 10% and agricultural irrigation by 30%.

If the city fails to meet MWD's requirements, it would be fined $393 for every acre-foot beyond its allocation.

If the city cuts back use by more than 10%, it would receive a $99 credit for every acre-foot saved.

One acre-foot of water is enough to serve a family of five for a year.

Oxnard pays $271 per acre-foot of water, said Joe Yurko, assistant public works director.

But city officials warned Tuesday that MWD will probably require further cutbacks in upcoming months as the state's four-year drought continues to aggravate the State Water Project's ability to meet consumer needs.

Oxnard consumes about 21,000 acre-feet of water per year, of which 14,000 comes from the state water pipeline.

The remaining third of Oxnard's water supply is pumped out of wells in the Oxnard Plain.

About 5,800 acre-feet come from the Fox Canyon Groundwater Management Agency.

That agency imposed a 5% cutback on Oxnard effective Jan. 1, to reduce pumping that has led to a saltwater intrusion problem in the ground-water basin.

The remaining 1,200 acre-feet that round out the city's annual water supply comes from city-owned wells.

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