Save Our Water, Ojai!


Over the past several years, we have confronted the harsh reality of climate change: our water supplies depend upon what falls from the sky and we faced the very real possibility of running out of water. We have suffered from severe drought’s in the past and, despite seasonal rains, this most recent extended drought looks like it could be the “new normal”.

The State of California was  galvanized to take dramatic action. Starting in January, 2014 Governor Brown proclaimed a State of Emergency:

“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

The Ojai Valley Green Coalition (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 (SOWO):

“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.”

The SOWO campaign was started based on a successful  greywater pilot project funded by City of Ojai, the Rotary Club of Ojai and Nutiva Foundation. The project included a neighborhood tour of three existing greywater systems, an indoor class on the why, what and how of greywater and a hands-on installation of a greywater system for a resident in the city of Ojai (owner paid for materials, grants paid for teachers; workshop attendees provided labor). The Save Our Water, Ojai! campaign expanded this model to include other educational techniques and several water-wise landscaping 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 Gas Company and AquaFlo with additional grant funding from Ventura River Water District.

To kick-off the SOWO Campaign, the coalition invited 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,  7 to 9 p.m.
Where:  Ojai Presbyterian Church
Description:  Local
experts talk about our climate history, our water future and what we can do about it. 

Watch Living with Drought_Tom Ash-0 05-26-16 on Vimeo:

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


OVGC held three workshops 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 the capture rainwater.  Presentation materials and handouts were provided to give examples and do-it-yourself instructions.  Information on those two classes is below.

WORKSHOP #1 Greywater 101-Laundry to Landscape 
When:  Saturday, June 18, 2016
8:45 am with a classroom presentation
, landscape tour and site evaluation. 

Description:  Greywater systems are especially important in times of drought and can greatly reduce 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 home and landscape. A guided tour of an existing installation along with a workbook with helpful resources was included.

WORKSHOP #2 – Rainwater Harvesting 

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: This program is for the homeowner who wants to install a rain garden, but is not sure where to begin. The program included simple “do-it-yourself” projects can maximize the homeowner’s ability to capture rain water. Topics included how to reduce potable water damns, capture rainwater,  and create a beautiful garden that supports wildlife.

Ojai Rain Garden captures all the rain!


In cooperation with Ventura River Water District, OVGC organized a Reimagine your Landscape class in September 30, 2017, with experts in greywater, rainwater, efficient irrigation and site evaluations to check irrigation run times and look for leeks.  See promo flyer below.

Water saving tips were prepared on a book mark and resources and recordings of past events were added to he SOWO web page.  Resources included:  info to help determine how much water was used in the landscape, ways to check for leaks, how to remove turf and ways to transition to using less water (irrigation checks, using mulch, native plants etc.). 


As part of its public information campaign,  OVGC provided  literature/promo information during the Ojai Day celebration. Renee Roth and coalition volunteers provided information on such timely topics as:

  • Water supplies related to the Ventura River Watershed, with maps and statistics;
  • Information on what native plants do well on low water (Seed packets of annuals were handed out);
  • Information on how to install a gray water system.

The promo flyer for Earth Day April 2017 is attached below.


Below are resources to help residents save water in the landscape:

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

Sustainable Landscaping Resources

City of San Jose
Program of State Of California SAVE OUR WATER 
Watersmart San Diego PPT
Greg Rubin Landscaping with CA Natives in San Diego in Pacific Horticulture Magazine