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THE DROUGHT : MWD Policy Would Mean 20% Cuts : The water supplier is seeking strict new rules that would mean residents of Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks, Camarillo and Oxnard would have to conserve more.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Residents in Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks, Camarillo and Oxnard may have to cut water consumption 20% starting March 1 if Metropolitan Water District escalates its drought program, city officials said Wednesday.

Officials of MWD, which provides all or part of the cities’ water supplies, announced in Sacramento Wednesday that they will ask their board to order Southern California water agencies to cut consumption by 31%, which would include 20% cuts for cities and 50% reductions for agricultural users.

The water wholesaler also will begin making contingency plans for even more drastic reductions, of 38% to 45%, if rainfall continues to be abnormally low through the spring, officials said.

City officials said they will pass the water cuts along to residents.

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“We might as well bite the bullet upfront and get started on conservation,” Thousand Oaks Mayor Frank Schillo said when he learned of the plan for new cuts. “The people of Thousand Oaks have been really supportive of water conservation.”

Ordinances requiring 10% conservation in Thousand Oaks and Simi Valley take effect today.

Those cities receive all of their supplies from MWD, which serves the county through the Calleguas Municipal Water District.

Simi Valley Mayor Greg Stratton predicted that residents will pay more for their water through fines while they adjust to the new restrictions.

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Fines will be levied after a household has used 624 gallons a day.

“Those methods of financial incentives have traditionally worked well in America, and that’s the approach we will probably continue to take,” Stratton said.

The city of Camarillo, which gets half its water from MWD and half from ground water, will also probably pass along the 20% cuts to residents, Councilman David Smith said. But that has not been finalized, he said.

Officials in Camarillo, which also receives water from MWD, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

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Districts that exceed their allocations are fined at three times the normal rate of $197 per acre-foot of water.

Quinn said water supplied to the cities is being cut rapidly in response to emergency drought measures being considered by the State Water Resources Control Board.

“Things are deteriorating so fast that the cities and the districts are going to have to move faster than they would like,” Quinn said.

Oxnard passed a water rationing plan Tuesday that is scheduled to take effect May 1, but Mayor Nao Takasugi said the city will speed up the plan if MWD enacts the cuts.

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“We thought we could have three months of learning time for the public to get used to the plan,” he said. “But the cuts will have to be passed on to the ultimate consumer.”

Phase 3 of MWD’s drought program takes effect today with 10% cuts to cities and 30% cuts to growers.

The district will probably jump to Phase 5--with 20% cuts to cities--at the next meeting, Feb. 11 and 12, said Timothy Quinn, director of the MWD division that handles the State Water Project and conservation.

MWD announced the additional water supply reductions as the State Water Resources Control Board met for the second day of public hearings in Sacramento on 18 proposed measures to battle the statewide drought.

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Proposed restrictions on surface water use would reduce agricultural use to levels that would support trees but exclude planting of annual crops.

Another proposal calls for large reservoir operators, such as Casitas Municipal Water District, to share their water with drier communities outside their normal service areas.

The state board, which has regulatory authority over all surface and ground-water use statewide, may also require cities to limit residential water use to 300 gallons per household per day.

The state may also relax salinity standards for drinking water, allowing higher concentrations of salt to come through residential taps.

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Another measure would forbid any diversion of surface water, which would halt water flowing into Southern California from the State Water Project.

The state board will meet in special session Feb. 7 to rule on the proposals.

Quinn said MWD cuts could quickly exceed 20% for cities if the state stops the State Water Project supply, limiting MWD to its existing supplies, Quinn said.

“We’re looking at an 85% deficit,” he said. “That worst-case scenario is looking more and more likely with each passing day.”

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Ventura County, which accounts for about 450,000 of the 15 million people that Metropolitan serves, could face reductions of 5% to 10% more than the rest of Southern California because of MWD’s delivery system, Quinn said.

MWD depends on state water for about 60% of its supply and receives about 40% from the Colorado River.

But the configuration of the district’s pipelines allow only state water to reach Ventura County.

“Most of our system is integrated, but there are some portions of the system, like in . . . Ventura County, where we can only serve water from the State Water Project,” Quinn said.

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Precipitation in the current water year beginning Oct. 1 is 28% of normal.

Storage in reservoirs in Northern California that help carry the state through drought is at 54% of average and 32% of capacity.

Storage in four Southern California reservoirs is closer to 80%, but those supplies are guarded for emergency use, officials said.

Six cities in the county now have water restriction measures in place, including the five served by MWD and the city of Ventura.

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Ventura depends on ground water for two thirds of its supply, but ground water also is running short because of the drought.

Ventura limits households to 294 gallons of water per day.

The Ojai Valley receives water from the Casitas district, which captures surface water, and other smaller districts that depend on ground-water supplies.

The city of Ojai has no rationing ordinance in place.

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Santa Paula, Fillmore and Port Hueneme receive water from underground supplies and have no rationing ordinances.


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