OVN EDITORIAL, Feb. 21, 2020: Casitas Municipal Water District needs to include public in water solutions

The property owners inside the Community Facilities District are still paying back the $60 million in bond money to buy out Golden State Water. Since then, Casitas Municipal Water District manages our water system for us. First, it spent about $2 million to replace all of our working meters with an “upgrade” to save on costs. After that, it continued to raise the surcharge on the meters, so that now meter charges often exceed the cost of the water delivered.
Have you ever been charged an allocation penalty for the amount of water you use from CMWD? Ojai is required to save water at a stage 3 drought; CMWD collects penalties from residents who exceed that level. 
CMWD also sells water to the city of Ventura — its biggest single customer. CMWD is one of several sources of water for the city of Ventura. Ventura receives water at wholesale rates, while Ojai Casitas users pay retail rates, plus meter surcharges and penalties where applicable.
CMWD also sells water at wholesale rates to Meiners Oaks Water District. Are Meiners Oaks Water District users and Ventura River Water District users paying the same amount for water as the bond payers? Is that water being subsidized by allocation fees and meter charges?
Ventura is required to track the destination of the water it gets from Casitas. Is CMWD receiving reports from Ventura guaranteeing it is not pumping (wheeling) water outside the district boundaries to the east side of Ventura?
The CMWD board members are not informing their ratepayers in Ojai about the litigation process, holding informational meetings, or even discussing the Ventura water litigation at their public meetings. Their meetings are held on weekday afternoons with limited parking. CMWD board members say their lawyers are preventing them from being transparent with the public. Instead, they are meeting behind closed doors in “negotiations” with as many as 30 lawyers in a room. Meanwhile, they have been fully aware, as recently as last March, in a letter from Ventura Mayor Matt LaVere, that the city of Ventura is fully committed to the adjudication process. To go and ask Ventura to drop the lawsuit in January appears to be too little too late.
Ventura does not provide any water to the Ojai Valley. The city of Ventura believes it can just bully and take, so the “negotiations” could really be focused on what CMWD and its ratepayers are going to give up. Concessions made by CMWD could result in loss of our rights and more water for Ventura.
Where have our representative water boards been? When will there be a “state of the district” meeting? How can we trust that CMWD is working in our interest in light of current inequities, its lack of action and lack of transparency? Why haven’t there been public meetings? The public concern and outcry have been enormous. Is it time to consider more effective advocacy for the interests of the special district that was created with the vote authorizing the parcel tax, or at the very least replacement of board members? We keep hearing that lawyers are in charge above our elected officials. That is baffling and unacceptable.
It’s way past time for Casitas to complete a new rate study without subsidies for Ventura. It is also time to force Ventura into compliance about wheeling water out of the watershed.
The city of Ventura is unwilling to negotiate on anything but adjudication, per LaVere last March, and we need to be certain CMWD does not pull a backdoor sellout of the public’s interests behind closed doors with 33 attorneys in attendance. Members of the public are ready for assurances from their water purveyor.
Contact Casitas Municipal Water District officials at 805-649-2251.