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County Issue The Drought : Should the drought be declared over when rainfall has reached normal levels for the year and reservoirs are at or nearing pre-drought levels, or should it be considered ongoing as long as the county, which receives a major portion of its water from Northern California, still has a water supply problem?

March 16, 1992

Michael Kleinbrodt, Deputy director of public works, Simi Valley

For local areas that draw their water from their own underground supply or reservoirs, they can decide for themselves if the drought is over if they have received enough rainfall to fill up their supply. For areas like Thousand Oaks and Simi Valley, which get their water from outside the county, it will be up to Metropolitan Water District officials. They are the ones who give us water from the Sacramento Basin and the Sierras. If they say it's still a drought, then it's a drought. I get a lot of calls from citizens wondering if the drought is over because of all the local rain. The misconception is that, when they look outside and see all the rain running down the street, they think it's helping the drought, but nobody drinks or uses that water. We'll just have to wait and see if we get enough snowmelt from the mountains and enough stored in the reservoirs up north.

Tim Downey, Chairman, Ventura Citizens Water Advisory Committee

It would be reasonable to declare the drought over when rainfall is normal and reservoirs are nearing normal. However, we live in an arid area, and the potential for drought is always there. We need to continue conservation as well as pursue alternative sources of water. A lot of people have been asking me when the city is going to ease restrictions on water use, but I don't have the answer. It's up to the Ventura City Council. It would be irresponsible of the City Council to go away entirely from water restrictions. We need to maintain some level of conservation goals for residents and business. We can't go back to our old habits, because another drought is inevitable. With responsible conservation, we can get by with the supply we now have without committing millions of dollars to long-term water projects.

Patrick H. Miller, President, board of directors, Calleguas Municipal Water District

The drought is not over. We have five years of catch-up time to get our reservoirs full. This is especially so for Calleguas, which serves almost three-fourths of Ventura County residents. We don't get water from local mountains or ground water, like some districts do. We get our water from the Metropolitan Water District, which serves the entire state. Many of their reservoirs are full or near full, but we are only going to get 35% of the state water that we've requested. Fortunately, we are getting water from the Colorado River--more than we're entitled to. The important thing is to get the reservoirs in Northern California up to substantial levels. They are only 67% full right now. The bottom line is that the drought will never be over. We need new ways here in Ventura to conserve what rain we do get, like new storage facilities and programs to reclaim waste water and ground water.

Frederick J. Gientke, General manager, United Water Conservation District

It is not a question of if the drought is over--it's not. The water supply in our ground-water basins is still overdrafted, which means we're taking more out than we are putting in. These basins are the index we use for residences, businesses and agriculture in the district. Although we are going to be able to fill up Lake Piru this year, the Oxnard Plain and the Santa Paula underground basins are still not full. We have received above-normal rainfall this year, and things look good, but we could have below-average rainfall during the next couple of years, and that will keep us in a drought situation. We need to augment the water supply we currently have by doing things like purchasing state water and pursuing other projects that would give us more water. We also need to continue our conservation practices, because we live in an area that is always threatened by drought.

Llana Sherman, Water conservation coordinator, Ventura County

The water supply and demand problem we face is both short-term and long-term. The short-term problem is the recurring drought cycle, which is a natural part of Southern California. There are some areas, such as Santa Barbara County, that have declared an end to the drought, but many jurisdictions within Ventura County have not. Within the county there are areas where long-term water demand exceeds long-term water supply. We need to continue to use our water supply as efficiently as possible, and water conservation should not go by the wayside. There is no room for wasting this resource. It is possible that our water supply could run dry if the current demand continues. There are many water purveyors who are investigating ways to augment our water supply with state water and desalination. Drought is a natural part of this area and, we have to learn to live with it.

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