Facing Drought Together

Editor's note: Coalition executive director, Deborah Pendrey, has accepted an invitation to sit on a panel as part of a full afternoon of discourse on saving water and staying in community. The event takes place at The Ojai Retreat on Sunday, March 9, 1:30 to 5 p.m. Reservations are required. Let us not be fooled back into complacency with the recent fabulous (but not nearly enough) rain event. A new way of life and course must be set – read on.

According to meteorological records kept by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, California has been in a drought for the last thirty months, and the last two months have been the driest since the 19th century. That was when Mark Twain supposedly remarked that “Everyone talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”!

It’s not a stretch to say that civilization depends on fresh clean water. Not only is it drier now than has ever been recorded in California, but paleoclimatologists suggest – working with evidence such as tree-ring records – that this may be the driest period since the year 1580, a year they say almost no precipitation hit the Sierra Nevada mountains.

For this reason we are holding an afternoon conference on our drought on Sunday, March 9 at The Ojai Retreat. The afternoon will begin with a “big picture” talk from Bill Patzert, a veteran overseer of a NASA satellite program, and a leading voice on the climate and meteorology of Southern California. The governor and state legislature have already proposed water conservation and funding for a groundwater storage plan that they say will make a difference for the state, but the Ojai Valley and part of Ventura, dependent solely on our Ventura River watershed, has their own decisions to make about water management.

Already some leading voices in the community have called for mandatory water conservation measures and Ventura and Los Angeles offer assistance to homeowners who convert turf lawns to water conserving or ocean-friendly gardens. Because of the drought, Ojai is more dependent than ever on the water stored in Lake Casitas and delivered throughout the Valley by our local water purveyors. Probably we can agree on the need to conserve water, but which path towards that goal will we take? While we are not at mandatory conservation yet, now is the time to discuss constructive actions to keep our community together. A water crisis has the potential to pit neighbor against neighbor, but that does not have to be if there is a concerted community response.

Towards this goal, reporter Kit Stolz, will ask questions of a panel of leading voices from government (Board Supervisor, Steve Bennett; Casitas Municipal Water District (CMWD) general manager, Steve Wickstrum; and Ojai Groundwater Management Agency board member, Russ Baggerly); business and agriculture (farmer and Farmer and the Cook co-owner, Steve Sprinkel); and the environmental movement (Ojai Valley Green Coalition executive director, Deborah Pendrey).

We hope the ensuing discussion will clarify the issues, and possible choices, without rancor. Because we believe in helping each other save water, we are also holding a workshop session, organized by local civil engineer Bill O’Brien, who will speak on greywater strategies. Cinnamon McIntosh of CMWD will share information on saving water, and Renee Roth will offer some climate-appropriate landscape tactics.

And because there is a spiritual and physical connection between the watershed and our lives together as a community, local pastor Victoria Loorz has asked a multi-faith group of leaders to join her – theologian Ched Meyers; Chumash leader Julie Tumamait-Stenslie; Zen Buddhist leader Kenley Neufeld; and Ojai’s Jewish Temple President, Sheila Cohn – to help us see how we can benefit from praying together in our different ways. More than anything, that’s what this event “Concerned Citizens of Ojai Valley: Facing Drought Together” is about, and why the Director of the Ojai Retreat, Ulrich Brugger, wanted to host it – to allow us to find a way to face, as a community, the threat of water scarcity.

Please join us. Visit our “Ojai Valley Drought Watch” Facebook page for more information. This is a donation-only event, but seating at The Ojai Retreat is limited: please make reservations at 805-640-1142.

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