Montecito Water District Takes Action to Rescue Water as San Luis Reservoir Rises to Spill


(Santa Barbara, California, February 9, 2017)

It has been one week since Montecito Water District moved to protect 7,000 acre feet of water stored in San Luis Reservoir through an exchange with Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. It will likely be several more weeks before the effectiveness of the exchange can be determined, and the District is closely monitoring the situation while waiting on the outcome.

Since the start of 2017, when the threat of a spill was first announced after a battery of rain hit northern California, Montecito Water District’s Board of Directors has convened at least once a week to pro-actively seek solutions for the nearly two-year supply of water at-risk. The District explored numerous alternatives, but in the end the exchange with Metropolitan was the only available solution, and the Board was prepared to act. Central Coast Water Authority (CCWA) brokered the deal that could save years’ worth of water from being lost to participating agencies in Santa Barbara County. If Metropolitan can move the water prior to it spilling, the District will retain 50-60% of the 7,000 acre feet committed in the exchange.

The spill, now deemed imminent, impacts Districts throughout the state as San Luis Reservoir is one of the largest storage facilities in California and serves as a water bank for numerous agencies that purchase and store supplemental water, an important part of managing drought conditions. The reservoir plays a particularly vital role in Santa Barbara County’s local water supply, as the State Water Project delivers directly from San Luis Reservoir to Lake Cachuma. While steady rains around the state are filling many rivers and reservoirs, agencies can’t get water out of San Luis Reservoir quickly enough to make way for the new incoming water (2017 State Water Project Table A allocation). Today Cachuma sits at only 15.5% capacity, but the payed-for water, now destined to spill, can’t be conveyed in time due to the state water project’s limited delivery capacity.

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