Ojai Farmer to Ojaians: We fixed our leaks — your turn

From Kimberly Rivers' thoughtful story in the Ojai Valley News on the panel discussion this past weekend in Ojai on drought/water issues:

At the Ojai Valley Inn last weekend, agriculture was a central topic. “It’s impossible to talk about water in California without turning a whole lot of attention to agriculture,” said Timm Herdt, moderator for the event and a reporter based in Sacramento covering state government and politics. He spoke about how even the wettest places in California have received about half of the normal rainfall, and in dryer areas, like Ventura County, the amounts are even lower. 

That’s taken a toll on farmers like Emily Ayala, a fourth-generation Ojai citrus farmer descended from the Friend and Thacher families. She concurred with Herdt’s assertions.

“I estimate that agriculture in Ojai uses about 50 percent of the water, from all sources. We use more groundwater in the East End than we do municipal water sources. From Lake Casitas, in an average year, we use 20 to 40 percent of Casitas water that is sold,” said Ayala. “And that number varies drastically depending on how much water comes from up there” — meaning rain.

“We hope that we get half our water from the sky. The last three years we haven’t gotten that,” Ayala went on, “so we’re relying heavily on the groundwater and Lake Casitas.” 

She pointed out that other than Lake Casitas, “We don’t have other water storage facilities in Ojai. It would be nice to have another lake, say, in the East End. But that’s not going to happen.”

She also talked about the San Antonio Creek Groundwater Recharge Intake, constructed so that in a heavy rainstorm, water will be put back into the basin. That project had already existed for decades, but had fallen into disrepair. It was recently rebuilt by the Watersheds Coalition of Ventura County.

“It only stores about 300 acre-feet,” Ayala said. “It isn’t a huge amount of water, but any amount of water we can store I think is useful.” 

Regarding conservation in the valley, she noted, “We all should be conserving, and certainly the only good point of drought is that it’s brought farmers together all across the western U.S., really. But it’s really gotten Ojai’s farmers talking to one another, figuring out how we can share the depleting groundwater basin.”

She spoke about the effect of a drought on citrus trees, explaining that eventually, a tree not getting enough water will start to drop fruit as a survival mechanism. “We are fixing all leaks,” Ayala said of the local farmers, “and I hope homeowners are doing the same.”

It's an excellent point. According to the EPA, an average household's leaks waste 10,000 gallons a year, adding up to over a trillion gallons nationwide. 

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