Ventura trying to get accurate picture of future water supply

By Tamara Koehler

Originally published 03:50 p.m., June 8, 2013
Updated 08:44 p.m., June 8, 2013

Ventura’s water supply is stretched thin and could be overtapped by 2017, according to a report by the city’s water agency.

The Comprehensive Water Resource Report provides the most accurate assessment to date of development’s demands on Ventura’s water supply. Prepared by city officials at the City Council’s request, the report establishes tools for tracking and predicting water usage by development projects during the planning process.

“This is not a crystal ball,” Ventura Water General Manager Shana Epstein told the council during a presentation last week. “We will have to continually evaluate the supply and demand. ... Instead, this is a way to hone in on where we are today and where we look in the future.”

Council members asked for more time to consider the 150-page report at last week’s meeting but indicated they expect to adopt its recommendations Monday.

Those recommendations include the following:

Establish baseline consumption measures for hospitals, hotels, restaurants and homes using historic data. Those measures will be used when estimating water usage of individual projects and the cumulative demand of all approved projects.

Annually update the city’s projected water supply based on actual consumption and availability.

Clear up discrepancies about future water availability. Currently, the city’s major planning documents — such as the city’s 2005 general plan, 2010 urban water management plan and 2011 water master plan — predict contradicting amounts for future water supply. For 2025, the documents estimate demand ranging from 22,708 to 27,421 acre-feet per year and supply ranging from 18,760 to 28,262 acre-feet per year. An acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons.

Ventura’s available water supply currently is 19,600 acre-feet per year. Demand from existing and approved projects is 18,643 acre-feet per year. But that supply could drop below demand “at any time,” according to the report.

Ventura’s water comes from local groundwater basins, Lake Casitas and the Ventura River. Levels can drop dramatically because of drought, storms or contamination.

Ventura Water and the city Community Development Department will use the plan to develop a more consistent process for the role of water in future development, Epstein said.

The city has been relying on the general plan’s numbers on water supply. The water resources report establishes a more accurate picture, Epstein said. The report’s estimates are conservative, factoring in a 20 percent cushion for effects such as global warming and drought, she said.