Santa Paula Water Works, a company that supplies water to the city and surrounding area, has announced that it will increase rates 50% by January to cover the cost of a new well, officials said recently.
The amount of water available for Santa Paula residents has dropped sharply in the last 10 years due to aging wells and equipment.
But a new well could cost more than $150,000.
The rate increase will raise the average residential water bill about $10 a month, company General Manager Frank Brommenschenkel said.
City officials said Santa Paula's eight wells are providing about one-third of the water they did in the 1970s, when the system carried about 9,500 gallons per minute to the city--enough water to fill 260 Olympic swimming pools a day. However, five years of dry weather coupled with several pump failures have diminished the output of the wells, shrinking capacity to less than 6,500 gallons per minute.
"This city could actually use two new wells," said Brommenschenkel.
The company's application to drill a single well on Lemonwood Drive will come before the Planning Commission in two weeks.
Opponents of the county's proposed jail near Todd Road said any increase in available water could spur unwanted development.
The jail would house 752 prisoners on a 15-acre site between Saticoy and Santa Paula.
"It looks as though the jail and the idea to drill have come about at the same time," City Councilman Les Maland said. "The timing isn't the greatest."
Meanwhile, at least two of the city's wells are "pumping sand" and water company officials said current well conditions would not allow them to meet peak summertime requirements.
"The new well would give us a needed 1,500 gallons per minute," Brommenschenkel said.
The area gets its water from an underground basin fed by the Santa Clara River and Santa Paula Creek. The basin contains 5 million acre feet, or enough water to supply users for 200 years, officials said.