Officials Call for Water Conservation

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Officials in Eastern Ventura County called for water conservation measures Monday after learning that their supplies of state water may be cut back because of the statewide drought.

Mayor Paul Lawrason of Moorpark, complained that the Metropolitan Water District had blindsided its water customers because it had not warned them that their supplies could be reduced.

"That hit me right between the eyes that there was a possibility now that we're going to have to conserve," Lawrason said. He called for a water conservation measure to be placed on the March 21 City Council agenda.

Simi Valley City Councilwoman Ann Rock suggested Monday that the city resurrect a set of water conservation recommendations drafted when the city faced a drought in the late 1970s.

Rock said a cutback in water supplied through the state water project, the canal linking Southern California to Northern California water, should come as no surprise.

Jay Malinowski, spokesman for the Metropolitan Water District, said that philosophy is only common sense.

"It would seem to me that every city in Southern California should already have something on their books that they could pull out and dust off," he said.

The Metropolitan Water District, which supplies water to six counties stretching from Ventura to the Mexican border, is expected to pass a resolution today asking all of its governmental water users to pass emergency ordinances that can be implemented if rationing becomes necessary. The resolution is expected to pass, Malinowski said.

The MWD supplies the Calleguas Municipal Water District, which in turn supplies all of the water for the cities of Thousand Oaks, Moorpark and Simi Valley. Calleguas also supplies two-thirds of the water used by the city of Oxnard, and half of Camarillo's water. The two cities mix the state water with lower-quality water from wells.

The district is waiting to hear from the state Department of Water Resources whether its supply of water will be cut. The state typically measures the rain year through the end of March, and will tell the MWD soon after whether its allocation will be reduced, spokesmen said.

"The Department of Water Resources is still hoping for more rain so they are holding off," said MWD spokesman Robert Gomperz. "But I wouldn't be surprised if they cut back their municipal and industrial users by 5 to 10% and their agricultural users by 50%."

Only about 10% of the MWD's customers use water for crops, Gomperz said. Most growers in Ventura County pump water from wells, many of which are operated by the United Water Conservation District. The cities of Oxnard, Port Hueneme and Ventura also have wells in United's district.

Because of the shortage of usable underground water, United is considering an ordinance to cut back pumpers by 25% over 25 years.

The MWD considered the request at its committee meeting on Monday and delayed action until next month, pending the state's decision on how much water Southern California will receive, Gomperz said.

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