UWCD to release water from Lake Piru

On Wednesday, September 9, United Water Conservation District will begin its annual fall release of water held behind Santa Felicia Dam in Lake Piru.

The release is expected to last 50 days through about October 29, but the period may be adjusted depending upon weather. During this 50-day period 21,000 acre-feet will flow down Piru Creek to the Santa Clara River -an acre-foot represents the amount of water sufficient to cover an acre of land to a depth of one foot and is the amount generally used by two average households in one year--. Approximately half of the water will recharge the Piru, Fillmore and Santa Paula Groundwater Basins as the water moves down the river to the Freeman Diversion at Saticoy.

The other half of the water will be delivered directly to agriculture on the Oxnard Plain and will help to prevent groundwater pumping from overdrafted coastal aquifers. This irrigation water will be provided during a period of high demand, since it is during October that a large share of strawberry seedlings are planted.

As a result of the release the amount of water stored in Lake Piru will drop from 41,000 acrefeet down to minimum pool at 20,000 acre-feet. Minimum pool is the level at which the lake must be maintained to avoid drawing
sediment into the dam’s intake. Though the 41,000 acre-feet of water currently in Lake Piru represents only half of the lake’s 80,000 acre-foot capacity, it is expected that the water released will be enough to meet agricultural demand and to sufficiently recharge local groundwater supply for the coming year.

The release will also provide a welcome supply of water to the ecology of the Santa Clara River Valley during a time of year when the river would otherwise naturally be dry, and it will provide United staff the opportunity to conduct studies relative to fish passage, percolation rates of groundwater basins and river channel cutting.

In speaking about the release United’s General Manager, Mike Solomon, noted, “We’re happy that, despite such limited rainfall the last couple of years, we still expect to meet all local water needs this fall. However, if the coming winter is another dry one, we may be in a very tough spot. It will be important for people to remember to use all of the water we have wisely. There’s enough to go around, including for the protecting our environment, if we manage it properly, but it will require help from everyone.”