Water Supply

Without water, there is no food.

 

Water Supply

In the early days of Ventura County agriculture, crops were dry farmed or irrigated using surface water diverted from creeks and rivers. But as cultivation expanded and technology improved, growers increasingly turned to the most abundant and reliable local water source: groundwater, captured in the immense alluvial basins that underlie much of the county's plains and valleys.

Today, local groundwater accounts for most of the county's overall water supply, and nearly all the water used to irrigate crops. Imported state water is a critical source for urban residents in the eastern and central parts of the county, while a combination of groundwater, impounded surface water and recycled water serve the central and western regions.

Heavy reliance on groundwater pumping, which increases significantly during drought, has led to problems in some basins, ranging from seawater intrusion along the coast to deteriorating quality and falling water levels in other areas. Over the past century, Ventura County's agricultural and urban interests have shown a remarkable degree of foresight and cooperation in managing local water resources to address such issues. That collaborative spirit is being tested, however, by the dawning of a new era in water management.

The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), state legislation that took effect Jan. 1, 2015, lays out a process and a timeline for local authorities to achieve sustainable management of groundwater basins. It also provides tools, authorities and deadlines to take the necessary steps to achieve the goal. For local agencies involved in implementation, the requirements are significant and can be expected to take years to accomplish.

• Local agencies must form local groundwater sustainability agencies (GSAs) within two years.
• Agencies in basins deemed high- or medium-priority must adopt groundwater sustainability plans (GSPs) within five to seven years, depending on whether a basin is in critical overdraft.
• Once plans are in place, local agencies have 20 years to fully implement them and achieve the sustainability goal.
• The State Water Resources Control Board may intervene if locals do not form a GSA and/or fail to adopt and implement a GSP.

In Ventura County, multiple efforts are under way to establish GSAs and begin work on developing GSPs. Farm Bureau is playing an important role in monitoring these efforts to make sure agricultural interests are represented in the discussions, and serving as an information hub so growers and landowners can remain informed and engaged.

A. No. East County cities, such as Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks, depend exclusively on state water imported from Northern California. In the West County, cities such as Ventura, Santa Paula, Fillmore and Ojai receive no imported water and rely entirely on local supplies. In the central part of the county, communities such as Camarillo and Oxnard rely on a blend of local and imported supplies.

A. Agriculture accounts for about 56 percent of Ventura County’s water demand. Cities use about 43 percent.

A. It depends on weather, soil type, location, type of crop and maturity of the plants. But on average, it takes about 3 acre-feet per acre per year to properly irrigate mature orchards and long-season crops such as berries. Crops that mature relatively quickly, such as most vegetables, typically need only 1 to 2 acre-feet per acre during the growing season, but there generally will be several crops planted each year on the same piece of ground.

A. Total annual water demand for cities and farms is about 445,000 acre-feet. An acre-foot is 325,900 gallons, or about enough for two average household for a year.

A. Most growers use high-efficiency drip or micro-sprinkler irrigation systems to minimize runoff and reduce waste. Many have also installed technologically sophisticated soil moisture sensors and computerized irrigation management systems to carefully calibrate plant water needs. Orchard owners also use mulch to control weeds and aid in moisture retention.

A. In a typical year, local groundwater provides 85 percent of the supply used for agricultural irrigation in Ventura County. Local surface water accounts for about 9 percent, and recycled wastewater supplies about 4 percent. Only 2 percent of the agricultural water supply is derived from imported water, which is much more expensive than local surface and groundwater.

Water Issues

 

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