A mutual water company is an entity established by a group of citizens to produce and deliver water for domestic and/or agricultural use.
SCMWC shareholders own the company. Each SCMWC customer must own at least one share, and there are 1,125 total shares in SCMWC.
SCMWC’s potable water is produced by two surface springs high up in Senior Canyon and from the Senior Canyon tunnel. Agricultural water is produced by five deep-water wells, one off Grand Avenue in the Ojai Basin, and the other four in Senior Canyon.
SCMWC is governed by a seven-member volunteer board that meets monthly. There is an annual meeting on the last Saturday of April for all shareholders, who must approve Board actions, elect Board members and approve any indebtedness.
Casitas Municipal Water District (CMWD) manages Lake Casitas. SCMWC is a reseller of CMWD water. When SCMWC cannot produce enough of its own water to meet its demand, SCMWC purchases water from CMWD. This CMWD water is pumped from McAndrew Road throughout our system and eventually fills our storage tank above Thacher School.
SCMWC has two storage tanks, the Nightingale tank just west of McAndrew Road that holds 237,000 gallons, and the Thacher Tank high up on The Thacher School campus that holds 708,000 gallons.
During closing, your title company will contact our Billing Clerk, Jan Martinez, who will have our field crew take a meter reading on the purchased property. The Title Company will then assign water charges to the old and new owners as part of the closing. Jan will then create a new Share Certificate, which the new owners should keep safely. The share transfer fee is $100.
Our Bylaws prevent the Company from accumulating any money beyond what is needed to keep the Company fully functioning. The rates are determined by the Board. We have not had a rate increase since 2015. The fixed fee for each meter is $80 per month.
Since July, 2016, SCMWC has implemented a conservation program mandated by Governor Brown. Each shareholder is allocated 70% of their 2013 usage on a monthly basis. If usage goes above this amount on any given month a surcharge may be applied to the bill.
At the end of each month our field crew reads all the meters on a reading device. This information is electronically transferred into our billing system, and bills are produced. We try to mail out the bills before the 10th of each month. The bills are due on the 25th of each month. If your payment is late, a 25$ late fee is added to your bill for the next month.
You write a check and mail it to:
Senior Canyon Mutual Water Company
PO Box 600
Ojai, CA 93024
Many shareholders pay their bills via online banking, where the bank mails the check to us. We can no longer have checks physically dropped off at our office.
At this point we cannot send out bills via email, but we are working on developing this capacity. We are also investigating an auto-pay option, but due to our size and the potential expense, it is not be a viable option at this time.
SCMWC is not equipped to carry any unpaid balances, so we expect that your bill will be fully paid on time. If an unpaid balance becomes a chronic problem, then we will contact you and request immediate restitution for the balance due. If your bill is not paid, we will issue a shut off order and will give you one week to make your full payment. After that, if your balance is not paid, we will shut off your water and we will not turn it back on until your balance has been paid. There is also a $100 fee for both turning the water off and on.
SCMWC is responsible for all leaks on piping going to the meter from our main lines, while the shareholder is responsible for any leaks from lines running from your meter to your house or to your irrigation system. If you have a leak in your yard, you are responsible for that repair. Most leaks are caused by critters chewing into irrigation lines. Because the soil in the East End percolates so easily, many times a wet spot on the ground may not be visible because the irrigation line is buried.
Yes, all shareholders may attend the monthly Board meetings held on the third Friday of the month at 3PM. On each monthly bill as well as in the “Calendar” section of our website, the date and time of the next Board meeting will be listed on the bottom portion of the bill. Since Covid-19, board meetings have been held via Zoom. If you wish to attend, please call 805-665-0587 and leave a message at extension #3 requesting a Zoom invitation to the meeting.
SCMWC is a reseller of CMWD water stored in Lake Casitas and pumped to the east end of Ojai. When SCMWC cannot produce enough water to satisfy the demand of our shareholders, we open an intertie with CMWD to purchase supplemental water. Lake Casitas is also the backup source for other smaller water companies operating in the Ojai Valley. SCMWC two interties with CMWD, one on Carne Rd and another at the McAndrew Pump Station, where CMWD water is pumped into our system and can fill our Thacher Storage Tank above Thacher School.
How secure is the water in Lake Casitas to meet demand in drought conditions? Is there a chance that the Lake can do dry?
Lake Casitas depends completely on rainfall to refill. There is no connection with the State Water Project(SWP) nor any negotiated agreement with another water agency to purchase additional water. Lake Casitas has a total capacity of 237,000 acre feet. The last time it was totally full was 1998 when the Ojai Valley had over 50 inches of rain. Since 2007 the Ojai Valley has experienced drought conditions on and off. On October 1, 2020, Lake Casitas was about 41% full, which means that there remained about 97,000 acre feet of water in the Lake.
In recent years CMWD has sold about 15,000 acre feet annually to its customers, of which SCMWC is one. It’s clear that if it doesn’t rain and this level of usage continues, the Lake conceivably could become severely depleted. CMWD has in place a plan for such a crisis, and the CMWD Board is seriously contemplating this situation all the time.
To learn more about the Casitas Drought Strategy, go to casitaswater.com and search for the Water Efficiency and Allocation Program(WEAP). The last page of the 19 page WEAP presents the 5 stages of drought that CMWD has identified.
In general, as the Lake goes down, the allocations(how much water people can use without penalty) will also go down, while rates will go up.
The SCMWC Board is constantly monitoring the status of CMWD and Lake Casitas.
I want to start either a small orchard or vineyard and grow crops for commercial sale. Can I get a special agricultural water meter and lower water rates to support my crops?
At this point in time the answer is no. Due to the drought, CMWD is not issuing any new ag meters to their customers, nor are they permitting any new applications for agricultural rates from their reseller’s customers. SCMWC cannot offer the discounted ag rates to our shareholders without permission from CMWD.
I have heard about a lawsuit filed by the City of Ventura against the Ojai Valley. What is this about and is SCMWC part of it?
A big part of this lawsuit has to do with having enough water in the lower reaches of the Ventura River to support a healthy steelhead run. The original lawsuit was filed by Santa Barbara Channelkeepers against the City of Ventura, which takes water from the Ventura River and has wells near the mouth of the River.
The City of Ventura eventually settled with Channelkeepers, but claimed that upstream users, including well users, in the Ojai Valley were also responsible for the shortages of water in the River. Over 6000 complaints were filed against the residents and companies in the Ojai Valley that had something to do with using water from the Ojai Basin. For example, all well owners were served, as well as any resident living next to a drainage that perhaps supplied water to that customer at some time in the past.
SCMWC has one well near Grand Avenune that supplies only agricultural water from a small well. Our other water sources are outside the Ojai Basin high up in Senior Canyon. But excess water produced from Senior Canyon does flow into San Antonio Creek, a tributary of the Ventura River. Our historical rights to this water were established in 1903 are we feel are very strong.
Most recently, a physical solution has been proposed that would ostensibly eliminate the need for lawsuits to settle this dispute. SCMWC has two legal firms monitorying the developments in this suit.