Residents and farmers in Simi Valley, Moorpark, the Las Posas and Santa Rosa valleys and some other eastern Ventura County areas failed to meet mandatory cutbacks on imported water use in May, resulting in fines of more than $170,000.
But people who live in Oxnard and parts of Camarillo and Thousand Oaks curtailed their use of imported water beyond the 20% cuts required of urban communities, earning a combined $28,000 in bonuses, according to a report released by the Calleguas Municipal Water District.
Altogether, county residents and farmers who use Calleguas water missed the district's overall goal by about 2%, or about 150 acre-feet of the 7,525 acre-feet used in May, resulting in net fines of about $145,000 countywide.
The report shows that residents in many areas are working hard to conserve water, and it reflects the tougher task farmers face in achieving 50% cuts to avoid penalties, said James Hubert, Calleguas general manager.
"The city of Thousand Oaks is really putting a lot of effort into their water conservation," Hubert said of the community that was among the last to impose water rationing.
Urban residents can cut back on lawn watering or take shorter showers to reach their conservation goals, he said.
"But for farmers, it doesn't take much to go over 50%," he said, referring to growers in the Santa Rosa and Las Posas valleys. "There are a lot of trees in those areas and you just can't let trees die."
Both the fines and the bonuses will be passed along to customers, city and water district officials said.
Calleguas, which supplies all or part of the water used by 450,000 people and about 520 farmers in the east and central parts of the county, imports water from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
The MWD, which takes its water from Northern California and the Colorado River, imposed the 20% cuts on urban water users and 50% cuts for farmers to curtail use during the ongoing California drought.
Calleguas passes along MWD penalties and bonuses to the districts it serves in Ventura County, which in turn pass them along to customers. Districts are fined $394 an acre-foot for exceeding allotments and paid $99 an acre-foot for staying under their allotments.
An acre-foot is enough water to serve two families for one year, or to cover an acre of land in water one foot deep.
The city of Oxnard traditionally uses less water than inland cities because smaller lots and moist air near the coast reduce the need for outdoor watering, Hubert said. Oxnard was 14% under its target cutbacks. And in Camarillo, where residents saved 8% beyond their cutback goals, city officials say residents have responded well to the yearlong conservation program.
In Thousand Oaks, houses and yards range from typical tract houses to estates on five-acre semi-rural lots. To avoid penalties, the average household must now cut use by 20% from the previous year, reducing to an overall average water use of about 700 gallons a day, said Kurt Reithmayr, a city engineer. The strategy has worked, Reithmayr said, with residents saving 14% beyond required cuts.
While the allotment is still large compared to the 294 gallons a day allowed in Ventura, Reithmayr said Thousand Oaks residents are learning to conserve.
"There is a marked decrease in the water running down the gutters," he said. "People are really trying." Reithmayr said the real test of people's will to save water will come this summer, when temperatures rise and rainfall is nonexistent.
Simi Valley missed its goal by 6% in the central part of the city and by 11% in areas nearer the outskirts. It also has a city ordinance requiring 20% cuts in water use to an average of about 500 gallons a day to avoid penalties, said Michael Kleinbrodt, an engineer for the city.
"It takes time for people to learn to live with conservation," he said. But he said he hoped that people would see how easy it is to conserve.
"Instead of watering for 20 minutes, they can water for 15 minutes and save 25% right there," he said.
Like the cities, Ventura County Water Works District No. 1, which serves Moorpark and other rural areas of the east end of the county, charges increasingly higher rates for water use above the goal.
The district missed its May goal by 31% and incurred $76,278 in penalties, the largest fine of any of the 20 districts that Calleguas serves.
But John Crowley, deputy director of Ventura County public works, which oversees the district, predicted that the figures will change next month.
"I think that all the areas will get better at conservation as people begin getting their bills and they start feeling the impact," he said.
May Water Use
For Calleguas Municipal Water District users:
Under the drought program, urban customers pay fines of $394 an acre foot if they fail to cut water use from previous years by 20% and agricultural customers pay fines for failure to cut back by 50%. An acre foot of water is enough to serve two familes for a year.
District Service area Penalty California American western Thousand Oaks, $12,332 Los Posas Estates Camrosa Water District eastern Camarillo, Santa $7,210 (includes agricultural use) Rosa Valley Metropolitan Water Co. Agoura Hills and environs $4,255 Russell Valley Mutual Westlake Village and environs $3,743 City of Simi Valley two thirds of city $56,499 surrounding central area Southern Calif. Water central third of Simi Valley $12,292 Ventura County Water Works Moorpark, Las Posas Valley $76,278 District 1 (includes agricultural use)
Districts that cut use beyond the requirement receive a $99 per acre foot rebate or incentive.
District Service Area Incentive City of Camarillo western half of city $2,316 City of Oxnard city of Oxnard $13,741 Pleasant Valley Mutual Santa Rosa Valley (agriculture) $524 City of Thousand Oaks central part of city $12,246