The Ventura Water Supply/Shortage Task Force submitted recommendations to the City Council last week, which mainly focused on providing incentives for conservation efforts rather than just raising prices overall and hurting those who already limit themselves to one shower a week and eat off paper plates. Well, most probably wouldn’t go that far, but there has been concern that all water uses will have to scale back further despite efforts to fall into the low water-use category.

How it has been proposed: The current Tier 1 level of use per month for single family households, which is from 500 to 1,200 cubic feet, or 3,740 to 8,976 gallons at 7.48 gallons per cubic foot, will be split into two tiers. The very low level will not be affected by the changes in water rates; the low users will see a slight bump in their bimonthly bills — around $5. The average user at 2,100 cubic feet, or 15,708 gallons, will see about a $20 jump whereas high (3,500 cubic feet) and very high (5,000 cubic feet) will see significant jumps in their bills, ranging from $55 to $95. The proposed rates are still being finalized and the first public hearing will be on June 8. But the kicker is, if residents comply with a proposed mandatory 20 percent reduction in water use, the very low and low water users will see a slight drop in their bills; the average user will have the same bills as before the new drought rates were set; while high to very high users will still be charged more but the increase is nominal, $5-$10. According to Shana Epstein, general manager for Ventura Water, most of the higher users will drop into lower tiers with a 20 percent reduction. If all goes as planned, our water resources will be better preserved but it could cost the water department $4.5 million for fiscal year 2016, according to the administrative report that came out March 9. The fact that the city is willing to take that kind of risk reveals just how serious officials are about conservation.

We understand the frustration people feel about our water supplies. On one side, there is apparently plenty of water to go around for the long haul. On the other, people are scared that we will dry up because of the news we have been reading about the statewide drought. Plus those images of dry lake beds are very disheartening.

In an Op-Ed piece in the Los Angeles Times (“California has about one year of water left. Will you ration now?”) a bleak picture has been painted:

“NASA data reveal that total water storage in California has been in steady decline since at least 2002, when satellite-based monitoring began, although groundwater depletion has been going on since the early 20th century.

“Right now the state has only about one year of water supply left in its reservoirs, and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing. California has no contingency plan for a persistent drought like this one (let alone a 20-plus-year mega-drought), except, apparently, staying in emergency mode and praying for rain.”

While we may moan and groan about possible deception perpetrated by our local governments about our water supplies, if any of this is true, then what? Are you ready to pack up and move to a neighboring state? If we can learn anything from this drought it’s that we should take nothing for granted, including 10-minute showers, washing dishes and being able to water our drought resistant gardens a couple of times a month. Best to conserve now than face a price we really can’t afford.