Harvesting the Rain in Ventura County – Part Three

By Tim Pompey

Ventura County Water Agencies Discuss Stormwater Capture

County Supervisor Steve Bennett

County Supervisor Steve Bennett has been active in environmental concerns in the county, particularly with the SOAR (Save Open Space and Agricultural Resources) initiative

According to Bennett, the county has been very active in supporting rain barrels and hosting discounted barrel giveaways. The county also has updated its NPDES permitting process to require a reduction in stormwater runoff.

“The new County NPDES permit goes further and actually requires that new development not increase storm water runoff,” said Bennett, “which usually necessitates rain water capture and on-site infiltration.”

But he admits that implementing other stormwater runoff systems such as cisterns are a costly proposition, especially since water capture in Southern California is intermittent and unpredictable:

“The few projects I’ve seen down in LA have been very expensive to build because they are retrofitting after the fact. The water is only used for irrigation of the landscape because treating it to drinking water standards after harvesting is cost prohibitive. While it’s true that cisterns on new construction are less costly, you still have the challenge of getting enough rainwater into the cisterns to justify the expense.”

There are numerous projects around Ventura County that have enough permeable pavements to allow rainwater from parking lots to soak into the ground on site. A large swath of the County Government Center parking lot lets rain water soak into the ground via a permeable pavement capture system. Still, it can’t be funneled into a cistern.

Bennett cites County Building & Safety as a leader in streamlining permitting and installation of both gray water and cistern systems.

The County of Ventura is also actively pursuing grants for stormwater capture or treatment projects for existing developed areas whenever grants come available.

For more county information, there is a new Ventura Countywide Storm Water Projects Plan that can be viewed online.

Other Options on the Table

An online article published by public radio station KPCC out of Pasadena, has suggested five options for improving stormwater capture.

  1. Increased use of spreading grounds such as the Freeman Diversion ponds. Whether creating them artificially or using what depressions are available, especially in the green belt along the central county, improving groundwater basins could be critical to improving stormwater capture.
  2. Increasing cistern and rain barrel use. While cisterns might be expensive, they are also effective in directly holding rainwater. Doing a county analysis of possible cistern locations might prove beneficial in the long run. In the meantime, as individual members of the public, rain barrels are readily available and easily implemented. Capturing water is as simple as catching the rainwater that runs off a roof.
  3. Low Impact Development Principles. As part of stormwater capture, requiring new construction to build detention basins and to use such tools as bioswales and curb cuts, as well as digging around sidewalks to provide better water filtration are a means to at least reduce stormwater runoff and resupply aquifers. As KPCC suggests, public agencies, schools, and public parks can often find funding for these practices.
  4. Green Roofs. Green roofs are a specific kind of a low-impact design that can capture up to 50% of rainwater runoff. KPCC cites examples such as UCLA’s Court of Sciences, Student Center, where food is served below and 7,000 feet of green-roof seating is above, and The Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, which features 12,700 feet of green roof 2 feet thick that helps insulate the building.
  5. Networked Water Storage. This is new age technology brought to bear on old school management. Suggested technologies include microchips to manage water stored diffusely, in multiple locations, over a large area of land. Imagine water management tied to high tech principles in which water is captured, stored, and used via networking. A similar high tech system was built to replenish aquifers fed by the upper San Antonio Creek in the foothills of Ojai.

Upper San Antonio Creek Spreading Grounds

Temporary Dams

In addition, one other innovative concept was suggested in a Citizens Journal article written by editor Debra Tash in 2014. The idea was proposed by local environmental engineers Mohammed Hasan and Mark Capron of Hasan Consultants in Ventura and written about in Hasan’s book Drought is not a Four-Letter Word.

Hasan and Capron have been actively seeking support from various city and county agencies so that stormwater runoff in this county can be captured and stored for use during heavy rainfall.

The idea is simple. Install removable and inflatable temporary dams on the Santa Clara River just before heavy rainfall starts, and after diverting the water, remove the dams. Large storms can be predicted quite early and the dams will inflate by water as it goes inside the “tubes.” Hasan says that “this option has tremendous potential to generate new water in our county.”

“I have worked in the water industry in Ventura County for 43 years in various capacities,” said Hasan. “When we put our energy to solve problems, we succeed.”

He believes everyone including politicians, engineers, scientists, managers and the public have a responsibility to support and get involved in developing solutions for future water problems.

Finding Common Ground

It’s a mammoth job in California to find common ground among the state’s numerous water agencies. From the Federal EPA to the State CEQA and the Department of Fish and Wildlife to the California Coastal Commission to the Ventura County Watershed Protection District, and many other California agencies involved in water management, the state of California is weighted down with a water management infrastructure that creates a drag on innovation, which, in its most basic form, allows for the possibility, often in a business environment, of developing and implementing broad new ideas for stormwater capture.

It’s important to note however that the drought seems to be changing the way California views issues like stormwater runoff. From a review of water agencies here in Ventura County, there is hope that the state, our county, and its ten corresponding cities have already begun to think ahead and see the value of interagency cooperation.

Yet the question remains: Can they generate enough momentum to be effective on a large scale? Can they work within such a complicated regulatory environment and somehow find ways to be innovative?

As for the general public, more involvement in local water management might mean more public pressure on water boards, elected officials, and agency managers to encourage them to look toward doing new things that have a large-scale impact on stormwater runoff. Public pressure might tip the scales toward more interagency cooperation within Ventura County. That in turn might help Sacramento to understand and react to a bigger picture.

Whatever the possible solutions, it is critical that Ventura County, a county that is still listed as being under moderate drought conditions, continue planning, coordinating, and seeking out additional water resources to satisfy its growing population.

The rains came this year. There’s no guarantee they will come next year, or for the next five years. Conserving storm runoff is one critical solution to water shortages. As part of that strategy, one reasonable alternative would be to dig into and answer the question we asked in the beginning of this article:

Why don’t we work harder to capture some of this water that we see rushing down rivers and creeks and out to the ocean?

Throughout the County, there is work being done, but the potential is there to do more. Why not now?

Harvesting the Rain in Ventura County – Part One

Harvesting the Rain in Ventura County – Part Two

Tim Pompey, a freelance writer who has done lots of local affairs and entertainment/cultural writing, lives in Oxnard. Tim is also a fiction writer (Facebook Page). You can learn about his books on Amazon.com: amazon.com/author/booksbytimpompey.

Mr. Pompey’s Newest Book:  

deep.downDeep Down  is another roller coaster collection of short stories by author Tim Pompey. A mortician with ghost problems. A humanoid stranded in outer space. A B-17 bomber pilot haunted by voices from his past. These and other stories dig beneath reality and crawl through hidden tunnels to a world that exists without and within us. From childhood to old age, these stories are locked inside the mind, waiting to be discovered.

Go deep. Very deep. Find out what lies buried within your own imagination.

Deep Down On Amazon

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William Hicks

OH YEAH BENNETT……rain barrels are so much better than dams. Don’t you think it’s time to be rid of such small thinkers among the County Supervisors?