Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Ojai and Dry

By Daryl Kelley
One of the Ojai Valley’s driest winters in recorded history has prompted its principal ater agency to begin planning for a prolonged drought and to start a $150 rebate program for replacement of old, water-wasting clothes washers and toilets.
“This could be the driest year since 1877 and the second driest in our records, which began in 1867,” said Ron Merckling, spokesman for Casitas Municipal Water District.
Just 7.38 inches of rain has fallen at Casitas Dam since the rainfall year began in October, and with very little rain usually falling after April, Merckling said this year could be a troubling near-record setter.
This year’s rainfall compares with 7.12 inches in the same area in 1877 and 8.77 in 1960-61, the lowest in recent history.
Even during Southern California’s most recent lengthy drought, from 1986-1991, rainfall at Lake Casitas never dropped below 9.46 inches in a year, records show.
As a result, the Oak View-based water agency has diverted no water from the Ventura River for storage in Lake Casitas this year. “We have a dry canal,” Merckling said.
And unlike most of the rest of the region, which receives water by canal from the high mountains of Northern California, the Ojai Valley is dependent on local water from wells or storage at Lake Casitas.
“We’re concerned … And we’re planning a drought consciousness effort because of the potential for a prolonged drought,” Merckling said. Scientists have recently predicted a continuing drought for the West because of climate change.
“It’s important for all of us to start now with water conservation,” he said, “because at the end of a drought the water will diminish very rapidly.”
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