Montecito Water District Meets State Planning Deadlines, Urges Customers to Ramp Up Voluntary Conservation
With one eye on necessary planning for drought resilience and the other on potential future funding opportunities, Montecito Water District’s Board of Directors voted unanimously in favor of Resolution 2212 to adopt the Urban Water Management Plan (Plan) 2020 update this week. The Plan may now be submitted to the California Department of Water Resource (DWR) for review and filing prior to the July 1, 2021 deadline. Consultants Jim Crowley of Zanjero Water and Greg Young of Tully & Young assisted with the preparation of the Plan, and presented at Tuesday’s meeting. This was the final in a series of presentations provided at Strategic Planning Committee and Board meetings as the plan was developed with feedback from the Board, staff and members of the public over the past several months. This process is typical for these Plans, which are mandated by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) for use as a long-range planning tool covering a 20-year period.
Three challenges unique to the District’s service area of Montecito and Summerland were identified pertaining to population, applying an incentive for desalinated water, and small agricultural operations:
First, determining an accurate count of population in the District’s service area is challenging due to inaccurate census data and lack of alternative data sources. Factors include difficulty in accounting for second or seasonal homeowners, seasonal populations at educational and commercial or hospitality institutions, and domestic staff which may increase household usage. While inaccurate population counts can have significant implications under current water use regulations, population is expected to be less significant in future water use regulations. District staff will continue to research methods to account for currently unaccounted population to most accurately reflect actual water demand.
Second, State water use legislation provides a bonus incentive for an urban retail water supplier that delivers water from a groundwater basin, reservoir, or other source that is augmented by potable reuse water. Currently no legislation identifies desalinated water as part of this incentive program, however the District’s position is that it should be included. District staff have expressed a desire to DWR to include desalinated water as part of the incentive program, as a credit to the District’s water use objective.
Third, draft guidance from DWR appears to acknowledge the growing trend of residential or community garden projects such as hobby farms, personal small farms, or community food producers. Some residential parcels in the District may also have small agricultural operations; the products of these agricultural operations are typically donated or sold at local markets. District staff will continue to monitor DWR guidance and advocate for this potential variance.
The State is in the process of creating a new foundation for urban water use limitations in an effort to “make conservation a way of life in California”. The methodology for standards and variances for all categories of water use are being developed by DWR and the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) and are expected to be complete by June 2022. District staff are monitoring each category closely through attendance at DWR workshops and working groups, and analyzing possible impacts of standards as they are released. Compliance with State water use regulations is vital for eligibility on State funding on upcoming projects.
Customers Urged to Ramp Up Conservation Efforts
With climate change and potential severity of future droughts unknown, voluntary conservation continues to be an essential component for water supply planning locally and Statewide. In 2009, SBX7-7 set a requirement for urban water suppliers to reduce demands 20% by 2020. The District was in full compliance with SBX7-7 water use targets in both 2015 and 2020, with customer conservation ranging as high as 56%.
District water consumption began increasing when the drought subsided in 2019 and continues to climb. At the same time, with the lack of rainfall in 2020 and 2021 to date, extreme drought conditions have returned. Avoiding water waste is again a “must do” for all customers in the face of many unknowns, and the District is intent on getting the word out and providing conservation tips. Community awareness and action is needed to ensure that water supplies secured through careful planning will be sufficient.
“With the drought condition worsening we are asking all customers to partner with us immediately to reduce usage,” stated Nick Turner, General Manager. “The District is well positioned with a drought resilient portfolio, but customer use is now over-budget and supplies are not unlimited.”
The District urges all customers to compare current usage with prior years and make adjustments as needed to reduce use, monitor carefully for leaks, and to take advantage of a free consultation with the District’s Conservation Specialist. Additional information is available on the web site: montecitowater.com, or by calling 805.969.2271.
Montecito Water District’s mission is to provide an adequate and reliable supply of high quality water to the residents of Montecito and Summerland, at the most reasonable cost. In carrying out this mission, the District places particular emphasis on providing outstanding customer service, conducting its operations in an environmentally sensitive manner, and working cooperatively with other agencies. For additional information visit montecitowater.com, like Montecito Water District on Facebook, and follow on twitter @MontecitoWater.