OJAI : Well Owners May Face Water Charge

Well owners in the Ojai basin may soon be paying for the water they pump from their property.

The Ojai Basin Groundwater Management Agency on Thursday voted to require well owners to register and meter their wells--a necessary step toward charging them for water that has been free.

“In the near future there is likely to be a charge,” Roger Essick, the board’s chairman, told about 30 skeptical well owners who attended the agency’s meeting at Ojai City Hall.

Added board member Scott Slater: “We have to remember that water is a shared resource and our mission is to preserve it not just for today, but forever.”


Despite the assurances of common sacrifice, many of the well owners--who have until Dec. 31 to shell out as much as $2,000 for a meter--were not won over.

“My main objection is that the government is becoming more and more involved in our private homes,” rancher John McMullen said. “I feel water is our property to use.”

And though he supported the agency’s decision, rancher Bob Davis Jr., who owns two wells in the area, gave board members some advice on any regulation plan.

“Keep it short, keep it simple, don’t make it another bureaucratic layer that none of us needs,” Davis said.

The five-member agency was formed by the state Legislature in 1991 to manage and protect ground water in the 4,800-acre Ojai Basin. The board has the authority to approve or deny new wells and to impose limits and enact fees on water extracted from the basin.

A recent study by the agency found 78 active wells in the basin.