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City of Ventura Stops Pumping Water From Ventura River Amid Long-Running Lawsuit

Ventura River at Foster Park
Ventura River at Foster Park

One of the South Coast's rivers is getting “life-support” after the City of Ventura stopped pumping water from it as a water supply – according to local conservationists.

The shut off came as a result of legal action.

Water is flowing – albeit gently – in the Ventura River here at Foster Park in Ventura County.

Many may not realize the river is here but it has been central to a lawsuit over pumping and diversion of water, for over five years.

This is now the first time that wells on the river have been switched off by the City of Ventura, as part of an interim legal settlement agreement.

Ben Pitterle, the Science and Policy Director for Santa Barbara Channel Keeper, which brought the lawsuit in 2015 says the shutoff is critical for the survival of the ecosystem around the river.

"This is a really momentous occasion because it's the first time in history that all the pumps have been turned off specifically for the purpose of keeping the river alive," he told KCLU.

"Right now this is life support for the Ventura river," he added. "Had this not occurred the river probably would have run dry in a matter of weeks."

Susan Rungren, Ventura Water General Manager from The City Of Ventura says about 20% of the city’s water supply comes from the river.

"We have wells and we have a sub-surface intake. Right now we have shut them down," said Rudgren.

Rungren says the city is having to rely more on water from other sources.

"One thing we have to rely on is the watershed - the rain - and we're not going to be able to bring back these water supply sources until we have sufficient water in the river, " explained Rungren.

"Regionally, I think everyone's working together during this drought," she said. "Because we do have other water supply sources, we were able to use water in Lake Casitas for others to utilize.

"It's about working together for the fish, for the environment, and for our water customers."

Susan Rungren, Ventura Water manager, City of Ventura (L) and (R) Ben Pitterle, Science and Policy Manager, Santa Barbara Channel Keeper
Susan Rungren, Ventura Water manager, City of Ventura (L) and (R) Ben Pitterle, Science and Policy Manager, Santa Barbara Channel Keeper

She said the city is looking ahead for new water supply sources.

Pitterle says it’s not only about protecting the impact on wildlife, but it’s also a popular nature spot for families to enjoy.

"This river means so much to this community. All of the wildlife, not just the endangered species, rely on access to these waters. It's not only about the animals. It's about the community - thousands of people visit Foster Park and this is their access to nature," he said.

The legal wranglings are set to continue into next year.

Caroline joined KCLU in October 2020. She won LA Press Club's Audio Journalist of the Year Award in 2022 and 2023.

Since joining the station she's won 7 Golden Mike Awards, 4 Los Angeles Press Club Awards and 2 National Arts & Entertainment Awards.

She started her broadcasting career in the UK, in both radio and television for BBC News, 95.8 Capital FM and Sky News and was awarded the Prince Philip Medal for her services to radio and journalism in 2007.

She has lived in California for ten years and is both an American and British citizen - and a very proud mom to her daughter, Elsie.