Water Shortage Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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What is a drought?

Typically, a drought is defined as three or more consecutive years of less-than-average rainfall.  Droughts can be short-lived or slowly develop and last for extended periods of time.  Below-average precipitation one year may put water supplies in a deficit, which can grow the following year, thus intensifying the drought.


Are we really in a drought?

Yes!  Currently we are in the fourth consecutive year of a drought with no immediate end in sight.  Locally, our water supply has been impacted; water flows have diminished in the Ventura River, restrictions have been placed on local groundwater wells and Lake Casitas is below 50% capacity.


Which water shortage event stage are we in?

In September 2014, the City Council declared that the City of Ventura is in a Stage 3 Water Shortage event, calling for a mandatory 20% reduction in water usage. The City remains at this stage.


What does a 20% reduction in water use look like?

For outdoor water use, the average Californian uses 196 gallons of water per day and 30-60% of their water outdoors.  To reduce by 20% or 38 gallons per day implement the following simple lifestyle changes:

  • Use a broom to clean outdoor areas (Saves 8-18 gallons per minute)
  • Adjust sprinkler to water plants, not the driveway (Saves 12-15 gallons each time you water)
  • Install a "smart" controller (Saves 24+ gallons per day)
  • Use mulch on soil surface (Saves 20-30 gallons per 1000 sq ft)
  • Water plants early in the morning (Saves 25 gallons)
  • Install drip irrigation (Saves 15 gallons)


Are the new water shortage rates fair?

Yes. A 13 member Ventura Water customer task force spent five months listening to community input and determining the best way to encourage water conservation while simultaneously rewarding those customers who have already demonstrated extreme conservation. The goal of these rates is to encourage water conservation in a prolonged drought and maintain the delicate balance between supply and demand of our precious water supplies. The rate structure focuses primarily on the reduction of outside water use instead of interior residential use.   


How will the Water Shortage Rates affect me if I have been conserving over the last year? 

The 13 member water shortage task force placed a high priority on protecting those who already conserve water.  One of the primary goals of the water shortage rates was to insure that lifeline usage (0-6 HCF) would be not be impacted by higher rates.


Are the new tiered rates legal? 

There is no baseline for each individual customer.

The mandatory use reduction is not individualized, but Citywide. When the rates were being considered, we were very aware that many customers were already conserving water. That is why we did not touch the cost of the new tier 1, as that is considered essential indoor usage. Tier 2 is increased a small amount. Tier 3 and 4 are mainly outdoor water usage and that is where the costs are increased the most, as outdoor watering is non-essential.


  • The Court did not rule that tiered rates are unconstitutional – only that San Juan Capistrano applied them unconstitutionally because they did not reflect the cost of service at each tier.
  • The City of Ventura has existing tiered rates in place and for water shortage rates beginning September 1. A cost of service review has been completed and reviewed by our rate consultant and special counsel to make sure they are consistent with the requirements of this new case.
  • It is still a little early in the process to know if San Juan Capistrano will be the determinative case – a petition was filed to be reviewed by the State Supreme Court to request the decision be “de-published” meaning it will only apply to the parties in the case.
  • The City intends to follow the requirements of the law.


Why does the City of Ventura continue to issue building permits during a prolonged drought?

The City estimates the number of housing units to be developed per year when evaluating new demand on our water supply.  With water conserving requirements associated with new construction, the water demand is less than some older homes. Recently with the Governor’s Executive Order, new construction is required to install only efficient irrigation systems.  A complete moratorium on new construction would only have a small impact on meeting our overall mandatory 20% reduction.  Conversely, a complete moratorium would likely have consequences on the City’s ability to meet new housing and business needs, which can have a severe and long-lasting effect on the local economy.  The City’s Water Shortage Event Contingency Plan does take into consideration at higher levels of conservation, a moratorium on the issuance of building permits.


What will happen to development projects if we move into Stage 4?

If the City declares a Stage 4 Water Shortage, all proposed development projects would have to demonstrate that their water demand impacts are neutral in order to be approved.  This stage will require projects to include active water rights or demonstrate extreme water use efficiency.  Currently, there is no fee in place to set aside for future water development.


What will happen I understand that Lake Casitas is below 50% capacity. What is Ventura's plan?

The City’s adopted 2010 Urban Water Management Plan provides a framework for five stages of water shortages.  The first stage is a voluntary reduction, which is where we have been since February.  Stages two through five incorporate mandatory reductions and restrictions.  The City Council created a Water Shortage Task Force in July to recommend response actions to shrinking water supplies.  


     Could Ventura run out of water?

If water supplies are seriously restricted in the future, it is possible that our community may need more water than available.  The purpose of the Water Shortage Contingency Plan (contained in the 2010 Urban Water Management Plan) is match how much water is available with how much water our customers use.  As our supplies drop, a corresponding reduction in usage (also called water demand) will be necessary to maintain a balance between supply and demand.  Stages two through five will direct specific mandatory activities by the City and our customers to overall reduce water use to stay within our supply limits.


How much water does the average household use?

In Ventura, a typical residential household uses approximately 21 hundred cubic feet (100 cubic feet = 748 gallons = 15 full bathtubs) or 15,708 gallons every two months.  A 10% reduction equals 1,570 gallons bi-monthly or 785 gallons per month. 


What can I do to use less water?

Reviewing your water bill is a good first step to understand how much water is being used.  Fixing leaks both indoors and outdoors is the easiest step to reduce water use.  One leaking toilet can waste between 300 to 60,000 gallons per month and even a slow drip from a faucet can use 450 gallons per month.  Outdoor leaks from irrigation systems are also responsible for a lot of water waste.  There are tools and resources, including a great water use calculator, available to help. 

Free water saving devices such as showerheads, garden hose shut-off nozzles, and faucet aerators are available to residents at the Ventura Water booth during community special events, at City Hall Treasury and Building Permit offices, or by contacting Customer Care at myvtawater@cityofventura.net or (805) 667-6500.  Most of these items and more are also available in the Environmental Sustainability Kits offered free to residents this summer by contacting the City of Ventura Environmental Sustainability Division at (805) 652-4525.


I have to water my lawn more because it is so dry.  How can I keep my lawn alive and use less water?

Lawns are commonly over-watered and there are a number of strategies customers can use to help their landscapes through the drought.  The top recommendation is to reduce the number of watering minutes and times per week one step at a time and watch your landscape for signs of stress.  You may be surprised at how little water it really needs. If you have been considering alternative landscaping, such as native gardens or native grass or even synthetic lawns, then this may be a good time to make the switch. 


What are “groundwater wells” and how do they help our Ventura water supply?

Ventura Water operates a number of wells that draw water from underground aquifers.  This water primarily serves the City’s eastside, which is outside of the Casitas District.  Several wells have been taken out of service for urgent repairs, which limits our current options.  A replacement well is under construction but will not be operational until the summer.  Reducing water demand will help stretch these supplies.


I live in the Casitas District in Ventura and pay an assessment to Casitas on my property taxes.  Are there services available to me from Casitas?

Property owners who live in the Casitas District, generally the area west of Mills Road, can request a free water survey and take advantage of a number of rebate offers.  Visit www.casitaswater.org for more information.


I live in an apartment complex and water is included in my rent.  Does this apply to me?

Yes, if you live in the City of Ventura, you are also requested to use less water where possible.  Approximately 25% of our residential customers live in multi-family complexes. 


How can I get my water use information? 

Customers can sign-up to access their account information and water use history online at www.venturawater.netor contact Ventura Water’s Customer Care at myvtawater@cityofventura.netor (805) 667-6500.  


I thought that water waste is prohibited.  I see lots of neighbors who let their sprinklers run too long, causing the water to drain into the street.  What is Ventura Water doing to prevent this from happening?

The Water Conservation Ordinance (Division 22 – Public Utilities – Chapter 22.170) in City of Ventura’s Municipal Code prohibits water waste.  This includes activities such as: irrigation overruns, leaks, hoses without shut off devices, fountains not using recycled water, washing hard surfaces with water, serving of water in restaurants without being requested by customers, and any other activity that wastes water without reasonable purpose.

If water waste is identified, we recommend that neighbors look out for each other and talk directly to the neighbor or the business owner about the water waste issue.  Since most irrigation systems are run early in the morning, many people are unaware until they receive their bill that there is a broken sprinkler or other leak problem.  Alternatively, customers can report water waste online or contact Customer Care at myvtawater@cityofventura.net or (805) 667-6500 with the address and specific information about the problem.


What is the City doing to reduce their water use?

Our Parks Department has been working to use water wisely for many years.  During these dry conditions, watering priorities have been set for park irrigation use: sports fields (for safety reasons), high-visibility or aesthetic areas, and then low activity or passive areas.  Some residents are noticing that the grass in many low activity parks areas has become brown.  Also, the City uses a preventative maintenance strategy to identify and proactively repair leaks, and City facilities have been retrofitted over the years with low water use devices such as low flow toilets, automatic shutoff faucets and timers on showerheads.  Window washing has also been reduced to once a year for City facilities.  The Fire Department is limiting water used during training exercises and engine washing.


In California, we experience drought cycles regularly. What is Ventura’s long-term plan to make sure we have enough water in the future?

In 2013, Ventura Water presented the 2013 Comprehensive Water Resources Report to City Council to discuss water supply pressures and efforts to integrate development planning. In accordance with an annual review, Ventura Water updated the Report and presented the 2014 Comprehensive Water Resources Report to City Council on May 5, 2014.  In addition, Ventura Water has been conducting special studies to determine the best use of the water cleaned by the Ventura Water Reclamation Facility and currently released into the Santa Clara River Estuary.  These two efforts are leading to the development of an Integrated Water Resource Management Plan for Ventura with the goals of improving the eastside water quality, reusing the water from the Ventura Water Reclamation Facility and creating a road map for Ventura’s water sustainability. 


Why didn’t Ventura build a desalination plant that was voted on by the community in the early 1990s?

The drought was declared over following several years of rains and the plan for a desalination plant was shelved due to the high cost.  However, a Biennial Water Supply Report was required from this point forward to project a 10-year planning horizon for Ventura’s water sources to allow enough notice to develop new water supplies, if deemed the right time. 

The 2014 Comprehensive Water Resources Report projected that water demand could exceed our available water supplies depending on a variety of conditions, including drought.  As foreseen in 1994, a new water supply would be needed in the future and an Integrated Water Resource Management Plan will provide the vehicle to help Ventura decide how to achieve water sustainability for our community.


How can I stay informed about Ventura’s water issues?

Ventura Water customers have many ways to stay connected:




This page was last updated on June 22, 2015