Montecito Water District’s October Board Meeting Update

(Montecito, California, October 30, 2017)

Montecito Water District's Board of Directors met last Tuesday to review facts and figures and continue planning for an ongoing local reliable water supply. Factors weighing on Director considerations included extreme temperatures outside, continued local drought, pending chance of rainfall unknown, and the large San Luis Reservoir up north predicted to spill again this winter. The Board must also consider the impacts of permanent changes in consumption, mandated by the state and delivered with the new edict "Conservation is a California Way of Life."

It has been several months since penalties and allocations were repealed, and customer conservation continues to be commendable, with consumption remaining at approximately a 35% reduction of 2013 usage. While sustained high levels of conservation have an immediate negative impact on revenues, the upside of conservation is extending water supplies over a longer timeframe, which bolsters the forecast. Short-term and long-term planning in the face of so much uncertainty requires a multi-faceted approach.


The most substantive item on Tuesday's agenda was an update on desalination. The District's 2015 Urban Water Management Plan calls for development of 85% local and drought-proof supplies by 2025, diversified in approximately equal thirds between groundwater banking, recycled water, and desalination. In March, dissatisfied with a first phase of negotiations on a Water Supply Agreement with the City of Santa Barbara (City), the Board directed staff to pursue alternatives prior to engaging in a costly second phase of negotiations. The alternative presented on Tuesday was a plan to pursue an independent MWD desalination facility and the first step is soliciting development proposals from public private partnerships (P3). Staff findings, supported by MWD consultant Clean Energy Capital, indicate that an independent facility could be financially viable and provide more control and long-term certainty of supply than was available through negotiations with the City. Developing an independent desalination facility and corresponding water supply agreement would also provide a basis for comparison with the City's proposed terms—such a benchmark has been lacking to date. The Board voted unanimously to move forward with the plan, emphasizing that it could be "off-ramped" at any time if more favorable negotiations with the City resume.

Several Directors and public comments articulated that a single, regional approach to desalination continues to be the preferred option if more acceptable terms can be reached, and recognized that in lieu of an agreement with the City the District's strategy for pursuing an independent facility is sound. Public comments from multiple District customers also stated that Montecito Water District and Montecito Sanitary District "need to collaborate." Director Plough recommended that Staff include Discussion with Montecito Sanitary District on the agenda for a future meeting, to explore working together moving forward.

Among other items in Tuesday's meeting, Montecito Water District's Board also voted to adopt Resolution 2160, supporting the assignment of the State Water Supply Contract from the Santa Barbara County Flood Control and Water Conservation District to the Central Coast Water Authority (CCWA). In 1963, when the State Water Supply Contract was first executed, the CCWA did not yet exist. CCWA was formed August 1, 1991, to construct, manage and operate Santa Barbara County's local facilities for distribution and treatment of State Water Project water. Organized under a joint exercise of powers agreement, the CCWA is a public entity currently comprising eight members, including Montecito Water District (District). During the recent drought CCWA proved to be an essential, highly effective entity, as approximately 85% of the District's water was coming via the State Water Project through Lake Cachuma. Reassignment of the State Water Supply Contract moves governance of the contract closer to the county water providers, in lieu of keeping it within the more general jurisdiction of the County Board of Supervisors. The reassignment is supported by all eight CCWA members, and approval is now being sought from the Department of Water Resources (DWR). If DWR supports the contract reassignment, the matter will go before the County Board of Supervisors for their consideration.

The Quarterly Water Supply Update presented by General Manager Nick Turner and a complete archive of Board and Committee Agendas and Packets, can be found on the District web site:

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.