Quarterly Update and Recent Actions

(Santa Barbara, CA, August 1, 2019)

There's a lot going on at Montecito Water District! Here are some updates on a number topics that are important to our community:


  • A Stage 1 Water Shortage Emergency Condition remains in effect and it is expected to take several consecutive years of above-average rainfall for water supplies to fully recover from the cumulative impacts of the historic seven-year drought.
  • Hydrologic conditions did improve significantly with the 2018/19 rainy season and MWD projects sufficient water supplies to meet demands over the 3-year planning period (thru 2021).  With the improved water supply, MWD has been able to pay back some of the water debt incurred during the drought, save some water in its groundwater banking program, and end the meter moratorium.
  • The July 2019 Quarterly Water Supply Update is now available online.


  • A rate study is in progress.
  • One of the District's objectives with the new rate setting process is to accommodate ongoing water shortage emergency costs and to eliminate the current water shortage emergency surcharge.
  • The rate study will not be completed until the District has definitive costs on new initiatives for water supply reliability such as the pending Water Supply Agreement (Desal negotiations) with the City of Santa Barbara – more on that below.
  • Public noticing and public comment are an integral part of implementing new initiatives, including the rate structure, and MWD will continue to provide information on the process in coming months as the timeline progresses.

(Note:  Rates have not increased since 2016; in 2013 the Board adopted a five-year schedule of rate increases, then voted not to implement the final incremental increase in 2017.)


  • MWD reported no damages to facilities from the recent earthquakes.
  • MWD is prepared for Southern California Edison’s potential planned power outages and these will not affect water service. All critical District facilities are equipped with emergency backup power, which is used during power outages to provide uninterrupted service to our customers.


The Water Availability Charge (WAC), a vital revenue component of MWD’s capital improvement program, continues without change—as it has since its inception in 1996. MWD’s July 23, 2019 public hearing and ultimate adoption of a resolution to continue the WAC is an annual requirement under California Water Code, and is separate and distinct from the ongoing rate study. This parcel assessment of approximately $30 per acre supplies the District with an estimated $300,000 annually for the replacement of vulnerable, aging, and undersized water mains to improve the reliability of the District’s distribution system. Upcoming projects include the Santa Rosa Lane Main Replacement.


The Montecito Groundwater Basin benefitted from a 2018-19 winter of above-average rainfall yet remains well below “full” aquifer conditions, according to data collected for the Semi-Annual Groundwater Monitoring Program Report.

Separately, the Montecito Groundwater Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) has begun holding regular quarterly meetings. More information can be found at montecitowater.com/sgma. Well owners and other interested parties are encouraged to get involved and can sign up for the GSA email updates online or by calling 805.969.2271.


MWD and the City of Santa Barbara approved proposed terms of a Water Supply Agreement earlier this year, and are in the process of finalizing some additional terms and drafting a 50-year contract. The Water Supply Agreement is targeted to be ready for review later this year, and will be made available for public comment prior to being voted on by the governing bodies of both agencies.

RECYCLED WATER / WATER REUSE: MWD continues to move forward with the top project recommended by the Recycled Water Facilities Plan, that is non-potable reuse (NPR – irrigation only) for large irrigation users with the option of indirect potable reuse (IPR – groundwater injection) pending a hydrogeologic investigation of the Montecito Groundwater Basin. Questions circulating in the press and community have expressed concern regarding targeted end-users and project costs. It is important to note that:

  1. Water reuse benefits the entire community by: extending drinking water supplies, enhancing water supply reliability, and reducing reliance on imported water supplies.
  1. Different costs are largely associated with different values for the end results. For example: With NPR, every gallon of recycled water used for irrigation results in a gallon of drinking water that can be saved for potable uses – the gain is an offset. With IPR, every gallon of recycled water could ultimately be used for drinking water thereby adding to the District’s potable supply.

A Groundwater Augmentation Feasibility Analysis is underway to determine if the Montecito Groundwater Basin can receive injection of water, and results are anticipated before the end of the year. Whether NPR, IPR, or a combination of the two, the project is targeted to use wastewater collected and treated by Montecito Sanitary District. The Districts are collaborating to determine the best approach to water reuse for the community, and a public joint committee meeting including staff and two directors from both the Water and Sanitary Districts is being held monthly.  For dates see the District Calendar, and for more information visit the MWD News Page.

For further information on any of the topics above please call 805.969.2271

Capital Projects, funded in part by the Water Availability Charge (WAC), increase the reliability of the water delivery by improving MWD’s aging infrastructure. Some pipes date back to 1920’s when the District was founded!
Capital Projects, funded in part by the Water Availability Charge (WAC), increase the reliability of the water delivery by improving MWD’s aging infrastructure. Some pipes date back to 1920’s when the District was founded!

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.