From a panel discussion I covered, here's a fascinating anecdote from Steve Wickstrum, who has managed Ojai's Casitas Municipal Water District for many years. Ojai actually is doing okay with water through the drought right now — unlike many communities in the state.
According to Wickstrum, Casitas water costs about $400 an acre-foot, which is less than water available through most other purveyors. He gave credit to the agricultural community for taking the initiative to build what became the Casitas reservoir in the late 1950s and early 1960s, saying that the community came together to build a system in preparation for a drought that could last as long as 20 years.
Wickstrum contrasted this foresight to that of California's State Water Project, mentioning that "a gentleman from the Department of Water Resources (DWR)" in the state visited him in the last major drought, in the late '80s and early ‘90s, suggesting that perhaps Ojai could be "less conservative" and more open to supporting development in nearby areas.
In contrast to Ojai, Wickstrum said, the state's water system works on "about a two-year horizon," dependent on snowpack in the Trinity Alps and the Sierra Nevada to feed huge reservoirs such as Shasta Lake and Oroville Reservoir.
"If the snowpack isn't there in the mountains — which is what we're into right now —- then DWR doesn't have water to deliver down south," Wickstrum said. "Right now the state is filling only 5 percent of allocations."