Water Supply Actions to Meet Long-Term Water Needs


By Nick Turner, General Manager

Despite a fifth year of the worst drought in its history, the District has good water supply news to report. Due to successful planning, and assertive water supply development and conservation, the District now has an assured water supply through 2017 and possibly beyond, even if the drought continues. Progress is underway on additional water resources to meet long-term needs.

Good News—State Water Project Increases Allocation to Montecito. First, the good news. Because of above normal snowpack and rainfall in Northern California, the State is providing an increased 45% 2016 State Water Project allocation. For the District, this equates to 1,485 acre-feet of water. The increased allocation, along with the District’s supplemental water supply purchases in 2014 and 2015 should be sufficient to meet customer demands though 2017, even if the exceptional drought continues.

Biggest Ever Supplemental Water Purchase Being Negotiated. On March 15, 2016, the District’s Board of Directors authorized a notice of intent to purchase 5,000 acre-feet of water (a full 1-year supply) from north of the Delta. If delivery of this water can be accomplished, it will be used to meet the District’s demand into late 2018. If environmental laws restrict the amount of water that can be delivered from north of the Delta, CCWA is working to secure water available further south.

But…Countywide Lakes and Reservoirs at Record Lows. Now…for the not so good news. Lake Cachuma and the District’s Jameson Lake are below 15% capacity, record lows for both, and dropping. The South Coast water agencies have planned for this, and are relocating a critical emergency pumping barge, enabling Cachuma to continue in its vital role as a place to receive and transfer delivery of State Water Project and supplemental water supplies to the District and other local water agencies.

District Optimistic About Desalination Agreement with City. District and City of Santa Barbara staff have been working on the long-term purchase of water from the soon to be reactivated Desalination Facility. The District’s analysis indicates a long-term need of between 1,250 and 2,500 acre-feet of water depending on water supply conditions. The desalinated water will be needed annually to provide a drought resistant, reliable, and secure water supply. Besides the expense of the water itself, it will likely be necessary for the District to construct new pipeline and pumping facilities for delivery of this water. It’s projected that the delivery of desalinated water to Montecito will be timely and will meet our customers’ needs. On March 18, 2016, the District received from the City proposed revisions regarding the future purchase of desalinated water for discussion. The District remains optimistic that it will reach an agreement on the regional use of the City’s desalination facility.

Thanks for Maintaining Water Conservation—Let’s Keep It Up. Water conservation continues to be more important than ever, since the Central Coast, remains in an exceptional drought. Without substantial runoff to fill Cachuma and Jameson lakes, Montecito Water District will continue to rely on imported State water and supplemental water purchases to meet customer needs.

Thanks to the extraordinary conservation efforts of customers, the District continues to exceed the State’s mandatory conservation target of 32%, typically achieving in excess of 40% conservation most months since the mandates began. The District encourages customers to continue conserving.

Water Forum to Come on Desal and Costs. With so many changes in water supply and use, the District has initiated a new cost of service study to analyze the costs for the District to provide a reliable water supply to its customers for years to come.

Before making a decision on desalination, the District will bring the details and costs to the public through a variety of outreach methods and through a series of informational meetings to discuss: all District costs, proposed adjustments to water rates, short- and long-term benefits of any proposed changes, and to receive the community’s input. The first of the informational meetings are expected to be held in late spring to early summer.

District Water Supply Portfolio Continues to Be Expanded and Adjusted to Meet Needs. This unprecedented fifth year of drought, has exposed the risks of dependence on surface water supplies to all South Coast communities. District actions to-date have been successful in maintaining continuous water deliveries to the community. However, prudent water supply planning requires further diversification of our water supply portfolio, including acquisition of desalinated water.

To obtain ongoing updates, sign up for our Enewsletter here.