Save Our Water, Ojai!

Ojai Valley Green Coalition SAVE OUR WATER, OJAI! Campaign
by Renee Roth, Campaign Coordinator

California has suffered from a severe drought and, despite seasonal rains, these dry periods threaten to become a recurring climate reality. The Save Our Water Ojai Campaign of the Ojai Valley Green Coalition (OVGC) was inspired in March 2015, after a long dry spell.  Our rainy season  was noticeably hotter and dryer and water supplies were dwindling after 4 years of drought.  The previous year,  Governor Brown proclaimed a State of Emergency and directed state officials to take all necessary actions to prepare for these drought conditions.

“We can’t make it rain, but we can be much better prepared for the terrible consequences that California’s drought now threatens, including dramatically less water for our farms and communities and increased fires in both urban and rural areas,” said Governor Brown. “I’ve declared this emergency and I’m calling all Californians to conserve water in every way possible.”

In the State of Emergency declaration, Governor Brown directed state officials to assist farmers and communities that are economically impacted by dry conditions and to ensure the state can respond if Californians face drinking water shortages. The Governor also directed state agencies to use less water and hire more firefighters and initiated a greatly expanded water conservation public awareness campaign (details at More info here

Staff at OVGC began discussing the water security issues we face in the Ojai Valley (i.e. no hook-up to state water, economy dependent on tourism and agriculture, two large golf courses) with a  focus on how to use the water we do have more efficiently.  In March, 2016,  we developed a mission, vision and overview for the Save Our Water, Ojai! campaign.

“Our water Security Program Mission: to catalyze a community wide and collaborative watershed approach to saving and retaining water in residential, commercial and public landscapes. The Coalition strives to advance the water security of the Ojai Valley by promoting and sharing knowledge, resources and opportunities to encourage water saving practices needed to convert a high-water-use landscape into a beautiful, water-efficient one.”

This campaign was based on a successful greywater pilot project started in March 2015, funded by City of Ojai, Rotary Club of Ojai and Nutiva Foundation. The greywater series included a neighborhood tour of existing greywater systems, an indoor class on the why, what and how of greywater and a hands-on installation of a greywater system for an Ojai resident (owner paid for materials, grants paid for teachers; workshop attendees provided labor). The Save OUR Water Ojai (SOWO) campaign was to take this model and expand it to include other educational techniques and several water-wise landscape features, with a focus on rainwater capture and storage, sustainable landscaping techniques, and water use efficiency. Initial grant funding came from the City of Ojai, Southern California Edison Company and AquaFlo with additional grant funding from Ventura River Water District.

To kickoff the SOWO Campaign, we brought in speakers to talk about residential water use, our water supplies and ways to save water in our landscapes.  Below is a description of the kickoff event on May 26, 2016.

Living with Drought:  Politics, Science & Practice
with Tom Ash, Senior Environmental Resources Planner; Steve Wickstrum, General Manager of Casitas Municipal Water District; and Russ Baggerly who sits on several local Boards addressing water and related issues.
When: Thursday, May 26, 2016 from 7 to 9 p.m.
Where: Ojai Presbyterian Church
Let’s talk with local water experts about our climate history, our water future and what we can do about it.  Tom Ash is back in Ojai and focused on the current drought conditions, what lies ahead and water management strategies and scenarios for conservation. A FREE PUBLIC EVENT.

We held two workshops in 2016 to help residents focus on how save water in their landscapes: first, we demonstrated the use of greywater ; second, we demonstrated the removal of turf and installation of rain gardens to capture rainwater.  Presentation materials and handouts were provided to give examples and do-it-yourself instructions.  Information on those two classes is below.

Water Saving Landscapes: Greywater 101-Laundry to Landscape Workshop
When: Saturday, June 18, 2016
8:45 am registration – Resource Center 206 N. Signal St. #S (upstairs corner of  Aliso & Signal St.)
9-10:30 am classroom presentation
11-12:30 pm  landscape tour and site evaluation

Greywater systems are especially important in times of drought and can greatly reduce your outdoor water use. Come learn how to reuse laundry water, a popular greywater system, including
design considerations, water saving potential, costs, regulations, health and safety, soaps and products, and plants that are a good match for your home and landscape. A guided tour of an existing installation along with a workbook with helpful resources is included to help you start a sustainable water saving landscape transformation.

Rainwater Harvesting Workshop: Class time and Garden Tour
Date: Saturday, November 12, 2016
Location: OVGC Resource Center and Ojai Garden Tour Site Close By
Time: 9:00 am to 12:00 pm
Description: Want to install a rain garden, but not sure where to begin? Join us to learn how simple “do-it-yourself” projects can maximize your ability to capture rain for reuse! Save water, money and make your home sustainably beautiful!

Harvesting rain is an effective and easy way to conserve water. Find out how berms, swales and native plants combine to create rain gardens. Participants will learn how and why rainwater harvesting is a valuable asset to any landscape. 
Receive step by step instructions on how to perform a site analysis, create a simple design, choose appropriate plants and take the steps necessary to install a rain garden!

In 2017, we coordinated Earth Day events with a focus on water supplies, ways to save water and the importance of our ecosystems to support the Ventura River watershed. We had a water wise demonstration garden with speakers and demonstrations to show water use efficiency practices. Details of our April 22, 2017 Earth Day are below.

Information on the Ventura River Watershed with maps and upcoming events were prepared for tabling at Ojai Day and other local events.  Seed packets were handed out to help residents understand low water native annuals (S&S Native Turf Replacement Meadow Mix ) survive on little rain fall and can add beauty to your water parched lanscapes.  Seeding instructions were also provided  ( Seeding Annuals Instructions)

In cooperation with Ventura River Water District, we organized a Reimagine your Landscape class in September 30, 2017, promo flyer is attached below.

We also developed a water tips book mark and SOWO web page with resources and recordings of past events to help residents continue to learning about how much water they use, ways to check for leaks and water wise landscaping practices that can help homeowners transition to using less water ( irrigation checks, using mulch, native plants etc.) We are also working on Sustainable Landscaping Guidelines for the Ojai Valley in cooperation with Ventura Water. These guidelines are based on the support from Tree People and the City of San Jose, along with the following resources:

G3 – Green Gardens Group – Waterwise Landscaping Books

Beverly Hill Garden Handbook
San Diego Sustainable Landscaping Guidelines
LA County Drought Tolerant Handbook

G3 – WaterWise Landscaping Materials

Simple Rain Garden Recipe
Plan Your Project Prepare a Site Plan
Six Elements of the California Friendly Landscape
Sprinkler to Drip Retrofit

Water Wise and Sustainable Landscaping Resources

City of San Jose


Watersmart San Diego PPT

Greg Rubin Landscaping with CA Natives in San Diego in Pacific Horticulture Magazine


**Link to Tom Ash presentation on May 4, 2016 at the Ojai Retreat*