When farmers began settling the Oxnard Plain in t he mid-to-late 1800s water was plentiful. Early crops required little irrigation beyond the natural rainfall and shallow wells were all that was needed to supply drinking and cleaning water to homes. As farming grew throughout the area and more water was required it became clear that it was important for local farmers to retain control over the water coming from the Santa Clara River and its tributaries. In 1925, the Santa Clara River Protective Association was formed.
Within two years the Association evolved into Santa Clara Water Conservation District (SCWCD) thereby securing the water rights to the river and its tributaries. At that time wells still provided the majority of the needed water for irrigation. One of the problems with pulling from the aquifers was it allowed sea water to seep into the wells closest to the ocean. To address this, in 1928 the SCWCD began recharging groundwater into the basins below the Oxnard Plain.
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In 1950, the SCWCD and the City of Oxnard joined forces to form the United Water Conservation District (UWCD). The UWCD then proceeded with the construction of the Santa Felicia Dam, Lake Piru, the three spreading grounds, and distribution facilities. All of these entities were built to increase the amount of water that could be pulled from the river and recharged into the aquifer. By the 1980s it was clear that too much pumping was pulling more and more sea water into the wells, so in 1986, UWCD constructed a pipeline to deliver water to the farmers directly from the river. In 1991, limits were put on the amount of private pumping that could be done and the Freeman Diversion was built to help capture more storm flows from the river and increase the amount of water recharged to the aquifers.
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Today, the United Water Conservation District consists of a 45-member team of water professionals, including a surface water hydrologist, five hydrogeologists and four civil engineers. A seven-member, elected Board of Directors governs the agency’s policy-making activities. dedicated to water conservation and protection.
Headquartered in Santa Paula, the UWCD encompasses 214,000 acres of the Santa Clara River Valley and the Oxnard Plain. District facilities include the Lake Piru Recreation area; Santa Felicia Dam and Hydroelectric Facility; spreading grounds in Saticoy, El Rio and Piru; the Freeman Diversion Facility; the Oxnard/Hueneme Pipeline System; and an agricultural water delivery system. oday, the United Water Conservation District consists of a 45-member team of water professionals, including a surface water hydrologist, five hydrogeologists and four civil engineers.