Montecito Water District Suspends Penalties
(Montecito, California, March 23, 2017)
As rain was falling on Tuesday's regularly scheduled monthly meeting, Montecito Water District's Board of Directors unanimously accepted a staff recommendation to suspend enforcement of penalties for excessive water consumption. The change is effective immediately.
Historic drought began in 2012, and 2012-2016 proved to be the five driest consecutive years on record. After declaring a Water Shortage Emergency with the adoption of Ordinance 92 in February 2014, the District enacted Ordinance 93, which was subsequently replaced by Ordinance 94, and which provided for penalties to be assessed for water used in excess of a customer's monthly allocation. After allocations were introduced, the community responded with commendable conservation efforts, averaging 46% since 2015.
Approximately 30 inches of rain has fallen since October, 2016, bolstering local surface water supplies, and moving Santa Barbara County's status from "Exceptional" to "Moderate" Drought between January 10th and March 7th, 2017. Substantial watershed run-off in Santa Barbara County partially restored Jameson Lake and Lake Cachuma, two crucial resources for the District. The recommendation was backed by a preliminary analysis showing that Montecito Water District has sufficient water supplies to meet customer water demand for the next three years. Underlying assumptions of the analysis include an ongoing critical drought scenario, and customer conservation of approximately 30%. Staff will return to the Board within 60 days to determine if additional actions regarding amending, suspending or terminating Water Shortage Emergency ordinances 92 and 94 are warranted.
"In recognition of recent rainfall and the responsiveness we have seen during the drought, the change is warranted. However, ongoing conservation is essential, and the District will be closely monitoring customer consumption," said General Manager Nick Turner. "Changes in behavior and landscaping have been tremendous, and need to be ongoing. We are optimistic that the community understands the necessity of permanently reducing usage."
Tuesday's meeting also provided for continued discussion and a request for direction regarding negotiations on a water supply agreement between Montecito Water District and the City of Santa Barbara. The Board welcomed comments from those in attendance. During the briefing, the Board expressed a clear desire to partner with the City and concern over the terms negotiated to date. The District has paid the City $193,594 for planning and participation in the first phase of negotiations. The City has requested an additional $252,976 to continue with a second phase of negotiations. The Board took no action and directed Staff to analyze possible alternatives.
Additional agenda items included a favorable audit presentation for Fiscal Year 2015-16, and expression of appreciation for Jan Abel, who retired from the Board in December after twenty-five years of service, the longest tenure of any Board member to date. Next month's meeting is scheduled to be held in the District Office at 2pm on Tuesday, April 18th.
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 www.montecitowater.com.