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Ventura River Watershed Youth Coalition


Ojai, California

Tigran Nahabedian, Hannah Little, Alex Alvarez, Zachary Danino, Catie Jo Larkin, Bella Slosberg, Vahagn Nahabedian, Tracy Wilson


We are a team from Ojai California, which is near the city of Santa Barbara. It is a small town with about 7,500 people, and the Ojai Valley has approximately 30,000 people. Ojai is primarily an agricultural town, and the main crops are citrus. However, Ojai is running into a problem, our local Ventura river watershed is being depleted rapidly, which is a major issue because all of our water for crops as well as our drinking water comes from it. Ojai is currently in a historic drought with water levels that are so low that is hasn’t been seen since the 60’s. As a result of this a major wildfire, the Thomas Fire, swept through Ojai and destroyed many homes and even our school. We aren’t the only ones who have been affected by the drought; many of our local plants and animals are being outcompeted for resources by invasive species that shouldn’t be there. One example is Arundo, which is a tall bamboo-like plant that has one of the highest rates of water use in our watershed. This water is being stolen from our local plants. Also, we have noticed that there is a large amount of litter and graffiti in the watershed, which is affecting our water quality.


An issue is that people don’t associate climate change with the effects on our watershed. Because of this, the first step of our plan is to educate our local community about the threats to our watershed. We will go to local schools to do presentations about the watershed, as well as start a social media campaign about our watershed. We also have an opportunity to reach an audience of over 2,000 at the MountainFilm On Tour which will be held at our school on September 21st. We believe this is crucial because education is the first step to making change. Our second step in our plan is community action. We will organize three annual volunteer cleanups in which we will be removing trash and invasive plants from our watershed. Our goal is to have these volunteer events at the Ventura River Preserve and Lake Casitas Recreation Area.

Find us on Instagram at @ventura_watershed

  • Helped recruit participants for the Ventura Coastal Cleanup Day, put up an information board, and supplied a cleanup in Libbey Park. Libbey Park is a central area in Ojai, and a major landmark to its residents. As well as being a well-known community landmark, it contains a tributary to the Ventura River. Over 70 volunteers showed up to the event, and they picked up hundreds of pounds of trash. There was seventy-five pounds of just tennis balls alone! Overall, the cleanup was a major success, and it opened up many opportunities for the students.

  • Hosted a booth at the Telluride Mountain film On Tour. There, VYWSC had posters and presentation boards set up near the center of the event. Over 2,000 people showed up to the event, and students were able to talk to many people who were interested in volunteering. An estimated 300 people viewed the VYWSC poster.

  • Partnered with the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy and the Ojai Valley Green Schools Coalition. VYWSC helped with the construction of a bridge to protect a spring on a tributary of the Ventura River. Mountain bikers, hikers and equestrians enter the streambed to cross to the other side as they make their way along the trail; the bridge will protect important habitat and will be better for the recreational community.

  • Joined with REI and the Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens to participate in a citizen science recovery project aimed at mapping the recovery of the Thomas Fire.

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