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Water is Life: Managing for resilience lies in our hands

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By the Watersheds Coalition of Ventura County Project Manager Lynn Rodriguez and Chair Sue Hughes

Water – it’s our life, our life blood, the engine of our economy, the sustainer of ecosystems, and a place to seek solace in nature. Water flows through our lives, nourishes plants and animals and all living things; as important as the air we breathe. We can’t survive without it. Yet, for most of us it can be hard to comprehend what it means to protect and manage water; we simply turn on the tap and water is there when we need it.

We are proud to represent the Watersheds Coalition of Ventura County (WCVC). Our mission is to work together on a regional scale to address the diverse and complex challenges of managing our water resources and become more resilient in the face of climate change, droughts and other challenges.

As we celebrate Water Awareness Month, we’d like to inspire you to learn more about water by sharing information with you about the work underway to protect our water and to assure that we will always have high quality water to meet our needs. This work is a collaboration driven by trust, common interests and relationships.

There are many diverse, inter-connected and inter-related elements involved in managing water effectively. Each of these elements has its own complexity, stakeholders, governing principles and goals, yet they are connected through an intricate web of collaboration and coordination.

It’s difficult to convey just how much is being done to manage our water resources and how many people make that possible, from water quality technicians to civil engineers, from hydrologists, to planners, from conservation professionals to elected officials.

Ventura County has a diverse portfolio of water sources and resources that make our County special. As a result, we are home to some of the most productive agricultural operations in the country, have a variety of pristine and healthy habitats, thriving communities, successful industries and popular water-recreational opportunities. We are fortunate to have plentiful groundwater and surface water resources and only depend on outside sources for about 20 percent of our water.

One of the ways we collaborate is through the Integrated Regional Water Management Program (IRWM), made possible through 3 voter-approved water bonds starting in 2002. As a result of this state-funded IRWM grant program, and the leadership and vision of the Board of Supervisors, the Watersheds Coalition of Ventura County (WCVC) was formed. The County of Ventura has been hosting this regional program for almost 20 years.

Since 2002 we have received $94 million in state grants that leveraged $ 151 million in local investments which funded 42 integrated, multi-benefit projects in the County.

WCVC is a diverse and inclusive coalition of partners that includes representatives from water service providers, the County, all 10 cities, environmental organizations and other non- governmental agencies, Tribes, state and federal partners including the Navy, Forest Service, State Water Resources Control Board, Department of Water Resources; agricultural organizations, special districts and others.

We are now celebrating the 20th anniversary of IRWM in California.

Our program is driven by six goals: protecting local water supplies to increase water resilience; protecting and improving water quality; protecting people, property and the environment from flooding impacts; protecting and restoring habitat and ecosystems; providing water-related recreational public access, engagement and education; and preparing for and adapting to climate change.

These goals were developed by our Coalition members and they guide our regional decisions regarding which projects and programs to implement and help us stay focused and balanced in meeting the diverse needs and interests of our County.

Under the direction of a regional advisory committee since 2016 we are engaging with Tribal members and 9 underserved and vulnerable communities in Ventura County to assess their unmet needs and include them in deciding their water future. This program, called WaterTalks, has brought much needed funding to our area for technical assistance and program development, as well as for outreach and education.

People working together is at the heart of everything we accomplish in managing our resources. Collaboration is about building relationships and trust, sharing information and ideas, engaging all stakeholders and finding creative solutions together – and yes, lots of meetings.

Success also depends on collective individual actions. There are many things we can do in our homes and businesses. Use every drop efficiently – indoors and outside, review your water bill to track trends and identify leaks or excess use, understand where our water comes from, and get to know where your water comes from and who brings it to you.

Using every drop efficiently and re-using water again and again stretches our supplies and adds to our resilience as we face droughts, water shortages and longer-term challenges.

We have long history of successful collaboration in this County, working together to effectively manage our precious water resources. Water service providers and many other entities work together every day to treat and deliver water, plan for future water needs, and find solutions to some of our vexing water problems like seawater intrusion and ongoing droughts. We can and will meet our current and future challenges together.

Please stay tuned for the upcoming Water 101 series at future meetings of the Board of Supervisors to learn more about water, how it’s managed and how you can be involved.

As Luna Leopold, prolific writer, professor and hydrologist, once said:

“Water is the most critical resource issue of our lifetime and our children’s lifetime. The health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on the land.”

If you wish to go quickly, go alone.

If you wish to go far, go together.

African Proverb

Click here to view the PowerPoint Presentation

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