By Bob Brill

VENTURA ( — Drought conditions in Southern California could lead to a water fee for new construction projects in the city of Ventura.

KNX 1070’s Bob Brill reports the City Council will consider a hefty fee of up to $15,000 per acre-foot for any developers who don’t bring water rights with their projects.

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The proposed Water Dedication and In-Lieu Fee (PDF) would apply to “new or intensified development that requires increased water usage” if sufficient water rights are not transferred, according to the City of Ventura website.

Any revenue collected would then go into a fund to help develop or obtain new water, said City Water Manager Shana Epstein, who denies developer claims that water is plentiful in Ventura.

“There may be water resources for us to develop, but the crux of it is new water will be two to three times more expensive than the water we have today,” Epstein said. “We have to think of how we’re going to pay for that.”

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In response to a third consecutive year of dry conditions and the lack of normal winter rainfall, Ventura Water began requesting customers in January to voluntarily reduce their water use by 10 percent to help stretch diminishing water supplies.

Despite city officials’ warnings, however, John Mathews with nonprofit construction developer CEDC said he believes the fee is unnecessary.

“I don’t think it’s reasonable,” he said. “The amount of income that the utility companies get, both county and city, can be used to tap into the ground aquifer, which is very plentiful in Ventura.”

According to Mathews, water is so plentiful in the area that on a recent project crews hit water seven feet below the surface. By comparison, the average water depth in surrounding communities such as Thousand Oaks is about 200 feet.

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The Ventura City Council will consider the ordinance at a public hearing tonight at 6 p.m.