Montecito Water District Jumpstarts Strategic Planning In January, 2017

(Santa Barbara, California, January 26, 2017)

Montecito Water District was in the limelight prior to last November’s election, with a record-breaking drought to manage and two seats on the Board available. Elected Directors Floyd Wicks and Tobe Plough began their term of service in December, and along with incumbents Richard Shaikewitz (President), W. Douglas Morgan (Vice President), and Sam Frye, they have hit the ground running in 2017 to face rapidly changing circumstances.

Since January 1st, three Special Board Meetings have been called in addition to the regularly scheduled monthly Board meeting held on January 17, and on January 24 a Special Committee Meeting kicked off the Board’s newly confirmed Strategic Planning Committee. The Strategic Planning Committee will hold regular meetings on the first Monday of the month at 9:30am in the District Office beginning February 6th, but conditions caused by heavy rains in Northern California require immediate strategizing, and the committee couldn’t wait.

"The current storm of meetings requires a high-level of commitment and participation from the Board of Directors," said General Manager Nick Turner. "We are fortunate to have a dedicated group with the ability to make critical decisions under constantly changing conditions."

The hot topic is protecting the District’s supplemental water supplies, currently stored in San Luis Reservoir where the District and many other agencies have banked water. Water in the reservoir was at a historic low-level in 2016, but heavy rains around the state thus far in January have changed the scenario quickly. The once parched reservoir is expected to "spill" in February, in fact the probability that will happen during the second week in February is now pinned at 100%. This is the first time in more than 20 years that there is potential of a spill, and, by working together and with the California Department of Water Resources, agencies are attempting to prevent any water from being lost. Approximately 7,500 acre feet of water belonging to the District is in jeopardy, which translates into nearly a two-year supply at current usage levels.

While rain falls daily, the "Exceptional Drought" status clings to the South Coast, and the District must plan for reliable ongoing water supply. At the January 17 Board meeting, Directors voted to confirm participation in the 2017 Central Coast Water Authority (CCWA) Supplemental Water Purchase Program. In coming weeks, the District will need to confirm or deny participation in another available purchasing program: Suspended Table A Water Re-Acquisition. The District continues to collect data and evaluate the costs of these acquisitions compared to other emerging opportunities. Additional water supply could be secured by participation in Santa Barbara’s Desalination project and Nick Turner reported that negotiations are progressing towards mutually acceptable terms. Other options being actively discussed and explored are Recycled Water and enhancing local groundwater storage capacity through partnerships with other agencies. Variable allocations from the State Water Project also impact strategic decisions. Although delivery has been curbed by the drought in recent years, it is currently confirmed for 60% this year and that number is expected to climb.

Founded in 1921, The Montecito Water District serves a population of approximately 13,100, providing water to more than 4,600 customers. The 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