The Ventura River watershed is the primary water source for many residents and farmers, and provides habitat for several endangered species and other wildlife. It also provides numerous recreational opportunities used extensively by the community, and drains to one of the most popular surf spots in Ventura County.
Despite its recognized value, the Ventura River watershed has been degraded by human activities. Urban, agricultural, and industrial development has impaired water quality. Floodplain development and flood control activities have resulted in extensive loss of river and stream habitat. Dam construction in the watershed has severely reduced available habitat for migratory species such as southern steelhead trout and has disrupted natural processes of sediment transport. Water diversions and pumping have altered the natural flow regime of the river and its tributaries. Exotic invasive species have become established throughout the watershed, competing with native wildlife, reducing available native habitat, and reducing the biodiversity of plant and animal life in the region. Additional human activities within the floodplain such as poaching, littering, and transient habitation also degrade the ecosystem.
Santa Barbara Channelkeeper serves as a lead watchdog group, advocate, community organizer, educator, and scientist in the Ventura River watershed. Our work there began in 2001, when we launched our “Ventura River Stream Team” citizen water quality monitoring program in partnership with the Ventura chapter of the Surfrider Foundation. Since that time, we’ve trained and engaged more than 500 volunteers in the program and collected more than a decade’s worth of scientifically sound data characterizing water quality in the Ventura River and its tributaries. We’ve published and distributed several reports, analyzed and presented our data, and contributed to the develoment of State pollution prevention and clean-up programs, most notably the triennial updates to the State’s “303(d) List” of Impaired Waterbodies and Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) programs to address water quality impariments for trash, nutrients, algae, and pumping and diversions.
Through our watchdog monitoring in the field, Channelkeeper has identified numerous pollution issues resulting from industrial and agricultural activities, and we’ve worked with landowners and public officials to get them cleaned up. We’ve organized numerous community clean-ups, engaging hundreds of volunteers to remove tons of trash from the river. We’ve participated as a key player in the Ventura River Watershed Council since its inception.
Currently, our work in the Ventura River is focused on:
- Working with other agencies to address the massive problem of trash from homeless encampments in the lower river and estuary;
- Monitoring compliance with the TMDL that was recently adopted to address the river’s algae and nutrient impairments;
- Calling for attention and action to address diminished surface and groundwater flows caused by excessive pumping and water diversions;
- Working to clean up pollution to the river and its watersheds from various sources including mining, oil development, cattle ranching, equestrian operations, irrigated agriculture, and others.