Friday, April 27, 2018

Water supply 2018

The ongoing drought has water managers and community members paying much closer attention to our water supply.  Although the signs of unsustainability have been evident for years, the extended drought, and now the impacts of the Thomas Fire, have brought the issue to the forefront of discussions in the watershed.

Aquifer & Reservoir levels, Sept 2017 - courtesy Ventura River Water District

The significance of this downward trend in water supply is evident.  We only received 11" this winter.  And although demand has been reduced by up to 30% in some sectors, it is likely that we will see Stage 5 drought declared this year, which would prohibit outdoor irrigation.

Also significant is that fact that the Ventura River Watershed is independent of imported water, a unique circumstance in Southern California where water imports have fueled unsustainable population growth.  Until now, this independence has been perceived as a benefit.  The primary goal of the Ventura River Watershed Management Plan, published in March 2015, is:

  • Sufficient Local Water Supplies. Sufficient local water supplies to allow continued independence from imported water and reliably support ecosystem and human (including urban and agricultural) needs in the watershed now and in the future, through wise water management.

The watershed plan lists a variety of potential projects, including stormwater capture, conservation, and reuse strategies.  While a few projects have been pursued to date, there is now increased pressure to develop new supply.  And although local agencies all endorsed this plan, the goal of independence has lost priority.

What's the plan?

Local water agencies are working on new supply projects.

The City of Ventura is pursuing a strategy that includes wastewater recycling, ocean desalination, and connection to State Water.  These projects are in the early stages of environmental review, with Notice of Preparation circulated in late 2017 early 2018.

The projects would develop new water supplies to augment the City’s water supply portfolio consistent with the City’s recently completed 2017 Comprehensive Water Resources Report (CWRR) and 2015 Urban Water Management Plan (UWMP). Some of these projects also constitute "Diversion Infrastructure Projects" as that term is defined in the Consent Decree, filed with the U.S. Central California District Court February 3, 2012 between the City, Wishtoyo Foundation/Ventura Coastkeeper, and Heal the Bay for the protection of the Santa Clara River Estuary.

Central to this strategy is the VenturaWaterPure Project which consists of an Advance Water Purification Facility (AWPF),  product water conveyance pipeline, and proposed groundwater extraction and injection wells. The project also includes construction of a new concentrate discharge pipeline, with an outfall to the ocean.  The Ocean Desalination Project would be sited at the same location as the VenturaWaterPure AWPF.

The project would enable delivery of State Water Project (SWP) water by wheeling water through the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) and Calleguas Municipal Water District (Calleguas) water systems to the City of Ventura. The connection would also facilitate direct delivery of SWP water to United Water Conservation District (United) and direct or in-lieu1 delivery of SWP water to Casitas Municipal Water District (Casitas). In addition, the interconnection would allow the City to deliver water to Calleguas during an outage of its imported water supplies. The interconnection would be a pipeline used to transport water between Calleguas’ and the City’s distribution systems.

Casitas Municipal Water District:

Casitas (CMWD) operates Lake Casitas as surface storage which serves as a primary and backup water supply to all users in the watershed.  As illustrated above, the reservoir is approaching all-time low levels.

Casitas is partnering with the City of Ventura on the State Water interconnection as described above.  Other projects under consideration include:

  • Matilija Formation Horizontal Bores (HoBo's)
  • Ojai East Septic Collection, package Treatment, Recharge
  • Pipeline from Matilija Chlorinator to Matilija Hot Springs
  • Renovate Senior canyon Mutual Horizontal Well
  • Ojai Desalter project

CMWD also identified lower priority projects:

  • Scalping Plant for Wastewater Reuse at Ojai Valley Inn
  • Fire Hydrant Flush water Reuse
  • Matilija Dam Groundwater/Surface Water
  • Debris Basin Enhanced Percolation
  • Santa Ana Road Underground Stream
  • Environmental/Habitat Modifications

All of these projects are described more detail in the Preliminary Water Security Analysis, Casitas Municipal Water District, Nov 4, 2016.

Matilija Formation Horizontal Bores, "HoBo's"

Citizen Organizations:

Ojai FLOW: this organization was successful in the effort to gain local control over water supplied to the City of Ojai.  CMWD now operates the infrastructure previously owned by Golden State Water.

Save Our Water Ventura:  Activities of the society and the economy should occur within the limits of the greater environmental system and improve -not weaken - its quality.

Ojai Valley Water Advisory GroupThe purpose of this small 4-person group (Larry Yee, Rosalie Zabilla, Richard Hajas, Peter Thielke) was to analyze the growing water crisis situation in the Ojai Valley brought on by 5 straight years of drought and a seriously low-level Lake Casitas and to explore possible scenarios and solutions. The group released the OVWAG Proposal in February, 2018.   The "Three Sisters" proposal advocates for collaboration between CMWD, Ventura Water, and Calleguas Municipal Water District to increase Ventura County's water supply reliability.

Ventura Water Commission:  A Citizen Advisory Commission to local government:
The Water Commission shall have the power; and it shall be its duty; to review and make advisory recommendations regarding water rates; water resources infrastructure projects in the 5-year capital improvement program; the integrated water resources management plan; water supply options; the Urban Water Management Plan approval process; a water dedication and in-lieu fee requirement; and other water resource issues. 

In the news:

8 debate future of Ojai's water supply, Lake Casitas, Ventura County Star, April 16, 2018

.        Opinion: Integrated water supply

Experts, officials debate water supply in Western Ventura County, VCReporter, 4-18-2018

Why Ojai is moving towards state water in April 2018, Ojai Valley Green Coalition, 5-18-2018

Ventura won't turn wastewater into drinking water just yet, VC Star 7-10-2018

On this blog:  Drought and water supply

Surfrider Foundation position on local water supply - "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."



Friday, April 13, 2018

March Rains - fires, flood, drought, and sand

Matilija Dam, March 22, 2018

They aren't calling it a "March miracle," but to many of us it felt like it.  A fairly steady wet period delivered around 8" of rain to the Ojai Valley, and rescued this year from the record books.  Seasonal totals range from 6" in Ventura, to over 11" in Ojai, with Matilija Canyon receiving over 16". This is just a bit less than half the "average" rainfall for our watershed. 

Water supply, April 1 2018   (from Ventura River Water District) 

The Ventura River Water District monitors levels in the Upper Ventura River Groundwater basin as well as Lake Casitas.   Note that the groundwater (blue line) responds quickly to rainfall compared to the large volume of the reservoir.  This graph shows the general downward trend in water storage, which unfortunately was not helped much with this season's rainfall.  

Water managers are also concerned that the Thomas Fire is impacting supply.  Huge volumes of ash and silt eroded from the burned landscape and deposited within the riverbed, possibly hindering infiltration into the underground aquifer.    So far this year the blue line shows a  relatively small uptick compared with past seasons.   

The March rains did mobilize a bit more ash, but more noticeably the river has again remained turbid (brown) for an extended period due to high levels of silt eroding from the bare mountainsides.

Flows remain high and silty in the Ventura River Preserve, March 30, 2018

This hydrograph for the month of March (thru April 13) shows flows at Foster Park (green line...8500) and below Matilija Dam (red line...4495).  The graph clearly shows storm peaks throughout the month, with the final storm registering around 4000 cfs.   This plot also confirms observations that river flows have remained relatively high following the final storm.  This may indicate significant changes in the hydrology of the watershed due to the Thomas Fire.  On the other hand, USGS data show that flows are now comparable with the historic median. The Upper Ventura River Groundwater Sustainability Agency (UVRGSA) recently commissioned studies to monitor and assess the situation.  

Flows at Foster Park, Spring 2018

Ventura Rivermouth, March 28, 2018

Finally, this aerial view of the rivermouth also shows silty water flowing into the ocean at Surfers' Point.   Not surprisingly,  Surfrider Ventura's new Blue Water Task Force and County testing found poor ocean water quality following the rains.  But look at that sand!

The gun turrets are now buried with sand, showing how the delta has grown compared with Ventura river mouth after the 2017 flood.  With fire and flood, a flowing river and eroding hillsides make for wider beaches...