Water is the lifeblood of coastal California. It supplies drinking water for communities, fuels agricultural production, and sustains waterways and the species that depend on them. However, creeks, streams, and rivers along our coast are drying up more due to increasing pressures from climate change, expanded urban development, and irrigated agricultural lands. California’s waterways are indicators. As they dry up, entire downstream ecosystems collapse, and these dusty streambeds alert us to a lack of sustainable management.
Why should we be concerned the Ventura River is being pumped dry?
We rely on the Ventura River as a primary source of drinking water. The Ventura River and its groundwater basins provide all of the water used in the Ojai Basin and the Ventura River valley. When the river goes dry, it indicates that water usage is not sustainable and that we are exceeding the capacity of our resources and living dangerously beyond our means as we face a more arid future.
Wildlife suffers when waterways like the Ventura River go dry. Streams, creeks, and rivers are hotspots for freshwater biodiversity, providing habitat for birds, insects, fish, amphibians, invertebrates, and mammals. Aquatic organisms rely on water for their oxygen. Reduced flows and rising water temperatures decrease dissolved oxygen levels and can result in wildlife asphyxiation. Ultimately, as flows stop, entire ecosystems collapse and once vital streambeds become silent.
The Ventura River provides essential access to nature for hundreds of community members each week. If you visit Foster Park or any of the Ventura River’s swimming holes and picnic areas on a weekend, you’ll see entire families splashing and enjoying time outdoors together and people of all ages and ethnicities exploring the wilderness in their own backyard. The Ventura River’s flowing waters are a valuable public resource that provide recreational opportunities and a place for every member of our community to connect with nature.
When flows cease, histories evaporate. The Ventura River was a source of life and abundance to the indigenous people who lived, hunted, and gathered along its banks and it remains a sacred landmark to the Chumash community today. Keeping the river alive preserves important narratives.
When the creeks, streams, and rivers in our backyard are pumped dry, it means that our resources are not being managed responsibly. Channelkeeper continues to speak on the Ventura River’s behalf and leverage the law to demand sustainable management of our water resources. There is enough water to satisfy the needs of people and sustain nature if managed sustainably. By protecting vital water resources, we can ensure water security for wildlife and people for generations to come.
Santa Barbara Channelkeeper has advocated on the Ventura River’s behalf for over twenty years to stop the City of Ventura from pumping it dry and establish flow thresholds to ensure the river’s health and ecological richness.