CASITAS : Water District Backs Off Penalty Plan

The Casitas Municipal Water District has backed away from a plan to penalize customers for 11 months if they exceed their water allotments during a single month.

Casitas General Manager John Johnson said public opposition caused the board to drop the proposal.

Casitas officials asked all customers last year to voluntarily cut back water consumption by 20%. Johnson said that goal has been achieved largely from Ventura's conservation efforts, but more savings are needed to ensure a long-term water supply.

Casitas customers will still receive notice of their proposed water allocations in their July or August billings, but enforcement of the four-stage program will not begin until January, Johnson said.

"The March rains gave us more breathing room," he said. "People can use this time to learn how to live within their allocations."

In most cases, the allocations are based on 80% of the customer's water use during 1989, but the maximum is 426 gallons a day. Farmers are limited to 2.5 acre-feet of water per acre of irrigated land each year.

After several customers balked at the limits, Casitas director William Hicks of Ventura said that asking households to live on 426 gallons a day should be "a cakewalk" compared to the 294 gallons that Ventura imposed last year.

Board members, who sent invitations to the district's 56,500 customers to attend the special meeting in Oak View, announced several other changes to their proposed water allocation plan.

But the board delayed adopting the plan until Aug. 14 at the request of the city of Ventura, the district's largest water customer. Ventura City Manager John Baker said city officials would like to continue to negotiate with the district on the plan.

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