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Water Rationing Will Remain in Effect for at Least Another Year : Ventura: The city cut water use by nearly 20% in 1990, officials say, but a shortfall in supply remains as several well projects have been delayed.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Projections that Ventura’s water shortfall would be made up by January were “over-optimistic,” and the city’s rationing program will be in place for at least another year, city officials announced.

Speaking for the first time since Ventura restricted the media’s access to water officials last March, City Engineer Ron Calkins said Tuesday night that a series of water sources that were due to come on line between mid-December and January have fallen behind schedule.

“We were hoping we’d have more water by now, but we were a bit over-optimistic,” Calkins said.

The Alta Mutual Well, which belongs to a private water company in east Ventura, was scheduled to begin producing 2,400 acre-feet of water a year on Nov. 1, 1990, according to city projections.

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But city officials said Tuesday that ongoing negotiations have pushed back the starting day until mid-February. One acre-foot of water typically serves the yearly needs of a family of five.

Golf Course Well No. 5, near the Santa Clara River, was expected to begin producing 3,000 acre-feet of water a year starting Feb. 1. But that date has been pushed back to Feb. 22, pending state approval of the project, said Ventura Public Works spokeswoman Carol Green.

The Saticoy Well in the Santa Paula Basin on the northeastern edge of Ventura was scheduled to begin providing the city with 3,000 acre-feet a year starting Dec. 15. But city officials said they are awaiting delivery of equipment to complete work on the new well. Officials said they now estimate that the well will be operational about March 1. The Golf Course and Saticoy wells are owned by the city.

Finally, a private well in east Ventura that was scheduled to begin producing 600 acre-feet of water a year for the city on Jan. 1 will not be on line until at least mid-May.

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“The well design is 95% complete, but we still have to advertise the project,” Green said.

In addition to these delays, city officials said the Ventura River, which was expected to provide the city with 2,000 acre-feet of water next year, will yield only about 1,200 acre-feet.

The city’s water crisis was prompted by a 4,000-acre-foot shortfall in the Ventura River’s annual yield in 1990, the result of five years of steady drought. In normal years, the Ventura River provides the city with about 6,200 acre-feet.

The shortage amounts to 17% of the city’s yearly water consumption, Public Works Director Shelley Jones said. To make up for that shortfall, city residents last year cut water use by almost 20%, city statistics show.

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In 1989, city residents used a total of 23,992 acre-feet of water. Last year, consumption fell to 19,249 acre-feet.

Water Supt. John Mundy said the rationing program will remain in effect until the city secures enough long-term water supplies to offset any additional hardships that the ongoing drought might impose.

“Things are going to be tight during at least the peak months of the year--from April to October,” Mundy said. “We’re going to have to be cautious about how we provide water, and our customers are going to have to be cautious about how they use it.”

Mundy also said Tuesday that the city is installing a backup pump on the Victoria Well near the County Government Center. Last year, the well produced 4,366 acre-feet of water.

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Mundy said Ventura has decided to build a backup system because the city’s water-storage capacity can cover Ventura’s needs for only about two days, and a systems breakdown at the Victoria Well could leave the city without water.

The city released a chart this week showing that water demand would exceed supplies this year in June, July and August. However, Mundy said, the chart is “approximate,” and the city would meet its year-round demand.

City officials also announced that western Ventura, which uses just over one-third of the city’s water supply, appeared to be responsible for more than half the city’s water savings since the rationing program began in March.

Jones said preliminary figures showed that the east end of the city had cut down water consumption by “about 2,000 acre-feet,” compared to the city’s overall reduction of 4,672 acre-feet.

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He said the city was still analyzing why water savings appeared to be so much higher in one portion of the city.

Overall, the city cut water use by 28.5% in December compared to the same month in 1989, officials said. The savings rate was slightly lower than the 29.9% savings achieved in November, but it still was the second-highest mark since the rationing program went into effect.

Henry Graumlich of the Public Works Department said he expected even more savings in the January-February billing cycle. In the November-December cycle, customers who violated the conservation ordinance three times in a row began paying 10 times the normal water rate for every gallon above their allocation.

“For some people, it takes that much money to come around” and begin obeying the conservation ordinance, Graumlich said.

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Overall, city officials said they were pleased with the way the water-conservation program was working.

“We’re a step ahead of everybody else,” Graumlich said, noting that Ventura was the first city in the county to begin a water-rationing program.

Times staff writer Mack Reed contributed to this story.


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