Montecito Water District and the City of Santa Barbara Spring Forward with Water Supply Negotiations

(Montecito, California, April 12, 2018)

In late March the Board of Directors directed District Staff to proceed on Phase 2 negotiations with the City of Santa Barbara for a Long-Term Water Supply Agreement. One year ago, the Board voted to suspend active pursuit of an agreement with the City and to explore other water supply options. The Board’s recent action resumes ongoing negotiations with the City and authorizes up to $302,714.85 to be spent for Phase 2 work, primarily defined as Conveyance Pipeline Negotiations and Design.

A Long-Term Water Supply Agreement would provide the structure for ongoing regional collaboration on water supply. While this is typically discussed in the context of purchasing delivery from the newly recommissioned Charles D. Meyer Desalination Facility, if an agreement is reached the City could fulfill the delivery from a different source. The District’s Urban Water Management Plan (UWMP) specifies the development of local, reliable water supplies and this agreement would be considered one component of a well-diversified water supply portfolio. While pursuing an independent desalination plant remains an option for the District, partnering with the City in a regional approach to water supply has been encouraged in recent Director discussion and public comment—and could be more expedient and cost effective.

“Moving forward with Phase 2 Negotiations is consistent with the District’s Urban Water Management Plan and is a pro-active step towards developing local, reliable supplies,” stated General Manager Nick Turner. “However, diversification is still essential. In the event that any single source becomes unavailable, we need to have multiple options for meeting customer demands.”

While meeting demand is not an immediate concern, it is an ongoing one. March also marked one year since the District rescinded allocations and penalties, which were established to ramp up customer conservation efforts. As presented at the March Board meeting, the Water Works Operations Report for January and February 2018 revealed that water usage has trended steadily upwards in recent months and is now approaching 2013 consumption levels. This trend is seen regionally, although the region remains in drought. The District urges all customers to be vigilant with water conservation, and to use water efficiently. Customers are also encouraged to monitor usage with weekly meter reads, which can help detect leaks and prevent water loss, and to schedule a free consultation with the District Conservation Specialist.

The District is currently pursuing opportunities to purchase supplemental water to bolster water supply in the face of an ongoing forecast for below-average rainfall. Over the past year the District implemented a groundwater banking program with Semitropic Groundwater Storage Bank, and is positioned to consider transferring water into storage if a purchase is made.

The March meeting agenda included reports on FEMA reimbursement and preliminary cost estimates for permanent repairs to pipelines damaged by Thomas fire and debris flow incidents. The Board approved two contracts relating to permanent highline repairs, one for engineering, design and construction support services to Cannon Corporation for $361,384 and one for CEQA documentation services to Tetra Tech for $40,000. Total costs for damages incurred by the storm cannot yet been calculated, as a number of projects won’t be fully defined until the design work is complete. Also related to the winter’s disasters, as part of a report on Storm Preparedness staff reviewed augmentations to the District’s Emergency Response Plan that correlate to the County’s newly introduced Storm Levels and corresponding timelines.

In summary, while rainfall has been too little to replenish supply yet remains a risk, the District continues to implement plans for reliable water supplies.

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, like Montecito Water District on Facebook, and follow on twitter @MontecitoWater.