Quarterly Update: Water Supply Outlook is Improved for the Near Term; Water Shortage Emergency Condition reduced from Stage 2 to Stage 1; Board Focus is on New Budget, New Rates, New Meters, and Strengthening Supplies for the Long Term

(Montecito, California. April 25, 2019)

It's been a busy first quarter for MWD with a banner rainy season that—at least for this year—has interrupted the seven-year long historic drought. Here's a current snapshot of the improved water supply status for the District:

In late March, the County Board of Supervisors replaced a Drought Emergency Declaration (in place for the past 7 years) with a Resolution of Concern Regarding Water Supply Shortage for the whole of Santa Barbara County. On Tuesday, MWD's Board reviewed the detailed quarterly water supply and reduced the District's Water Shortage Emergency Condition from a Stage 2 to Stage 1. MWD's move to Stage 1 is consistent with current hydrologic and water supply conditions and in compliance with its Urban Water Management Plan which is regulated by the State of California.

"The hydrologic conditions have improved dramatically," stated General Manager Nick Turner. "We now have important--and very positive--information pertaining to our water supply outlook for 2019/20 that we did not have six weeks ago. However, we must move forward cautiously. Our customers have learned to use water efficiently, and must continue to do so. Only time will tell us if this wet year is an anomaly, or indeed puts an end to this drought."

As a next step in responding to the improved water supply outlook, the Board also provided input on a draft Ordinance 96 intended to replace the current Ordinance 95 that provides for restrictions on water use. Prohibiting water waste is still essential, consistent with the State's directive of making "Conservation a California Way of Life," and this new ordinance would address ongoing requirements. With the adoption of Ordinance 96, MWD is considering ending the meter moratorium that has been in place since 2014, and Staff provided a comprehensive analysis on the potential impact of issuing new water meters at Tuesday's meeting for Board review. The new ordinance is slated to go before the Board for possible approval next month, and as always public input is welcome.

New Budget, New Plan, New Rates

MWD is now preparing its budget for fiscal year 2019/20 which begins July 1, 2019. Earlier this year, MWD received a favorable "unmodified opinion" on its independent annual audit for fiscal year 2017/18. "The books are in order," commented Director Ken Coates. "Contending with the disaster and having a new Business Manager, things could easily have gone sideways. It's a tribute to the management that finances have stayed on track." Budgets and Audited Financial Reports are available to the public on the web site: montecitowater.com.

MWD is also updating its 5-year Financial Plan which informs the rate study. The rate study, which will evaluate costs associated with ongoing water shortage emergency conditions, is scheduled for completion within the next two to four months. The timeline may be delayed so that the most accurate and current information can be included. The tentative timeline shown here was part of the presentation to the Board this week:

Important considerations for the rate study include the water supply outlook for the 3-year planning period, and the cost of new initiatives such as the pending Water Supply Agreement (WSA) with the City of Santa Barbara. 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 required to fund unforeseen extraordinary expenses resulting from the drought. Public noticing and public comment are an integral part of implementing a new rate structure; all Board and Committee meetings are open to the public, dates are posted to the online District Calendar, agendas, minutes and packets are available at the office or on the web site, and participation is encouraged.

MWD continues to make progress on strategic initiatives for bolstering water supplies long term, including Desalination and Recycled Water, and will keep the public informed. Here is a brief update on a very important initiative involving the public—SGMA:

SGMA (Sustainable Groundwater Management Act)

The Montecito Groundwater Basin was designated as a "Medium Priority" by the Department of Water Resources, which means it is subject to SGMA–the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act established in 2014. A Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) has been formed for the Montecito Groundwater Basin and will hold its first meeting on April 29, 2019 at 9:30am in the Montecito Fire Protection District Board Room at 595 San Ysidro Road, 93108. The GSA will serve as lead agency in the preparation and implementation of a Groundwater Sustainability Plan. In March, MWD's Board approved a contract with local consulting firm Dudek to assist with professional services associated with the development of the Groundwater Sustainability Plan. Community engagement is essential to the preparation and implementation of a Groundwater Sustainability Plan and all stakeholders and anyone interested in the process are encouraged to sign u for email updates and attend meetings. For more information, please contact us at 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.