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On the Table: Recycled Water for Montecito

Montecito Water District (MWD) and Montecito Sanitary District (MSD) Strategic Planning Committees met jointly last month for updates on two collaborative projects that are being co-funded by both agencies: an Enhanced Recycled Water Feasibility Study and an Evaluation of Special District Consolidation. The April 27th meeting was the first in-person meeting held in over two years, since collaborative meetings have been taking place via teleconferencing throughout the pandemic. Attendees included MWD Directors Tobe Plough and Ken Coates with General Manager Nick Turner, MSD Directors Dorinne Lee Johnson and Woody Barrett with General Manager Bradley Rahrer, staff from both agencies, members of the public, and presenters—some of whom participated via Zoom.

MSD and MWD April 27, 2022 meeting

The Strategic Planning Committees met jointly in person for the first time, after conducting meetings via teleconference for more than two years. On the agenda is evaluating water reuse options for the community and exploring a potential merger of the Districts.  From left: Montecito Water District Nick Turner (General Manager), Tobe Plough (Board President), and Ken Coates (Board Vice President); Montecito Sanitary District: Dorinne Lee Johnson (Board President), Woody Barrett (Board Vice President), Bradley Rahrer (General Manager).

Andy Salveson, the Lead Project Manager from Carollo Engineers, Inc. provided an update on the Enhanced Recycled Water Feasibility Study. The Carollo team includes Rob Morrow of Water Systems Consulting, Inc. (WSC) who worked on the mostly grant-funded Recycled Water Feasibility Plan completed by Montecito Water District in 2019. The new Enhanced Study, also eligible for grant funding, builds on the work that was done prior with greater focus on potable reuse options following the State Water Board’s recent advancements with further development of the direct potable reuse framework. The study will also evaluate potential opportunities for regional collaboration with neighboring agencies including the Carpinteria Valley Water and Carpinteria Sanitary Districts, and the City of Santa Barbara on joint recycled water projects.

Jointly the committees expressed that it is more important to find the right solution than to rush:

“The Montecito Water District Board has taken actions over the last five years that have significantly improved our water supply outlook and as a result, we are well positioned to respond to the ongoing drought conditions,” said Nick Turner, Montecito Water District’s General Manager. “This enables us to take our time to thoroughly analyze recycled water and determine what is best for the community long-term. It is important that the Districts get this right.”

“The more you can plan it out and do it right, the better the use of the money it is going to be,” agreed Brad Rahrer, Montecito Sanitary District’s General Manager.

Two public workshops are planned for later this year, and Carollo anticipates having information ready for the first of these this summer. The consultant’s scope of work includes developing selection criteria to help the Board, Staff, and Public evaluate potential water reuse projects.
Also on the agenda for the joint Strategic Planning Committees is the possibility of a merger. Raftelis Financial Consultants, Inc. is contracted to prepare an independent Evaluation of Special District Consolidation which will yield a cost benefit analysis to support discussion and decision-making about potentially merging the two Districts. This is an initial study to determine whether the Districts should pursue consolidation with the Santa Barbara County’s Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), the entity with oversight of this process. If both Districts decide to continue pursuing a merger after this initial study is complete, LAFCO will require a more comprehensive feasibility study for their approval process. Both Districts’ Board and Committee meetings are open to the public, and a community-oriented presentation to share findings on this topic is also expected in the late summer timeframe once the consultants have had time to gather information.

The joint committee’s next meeting is scheduled for June 7, 2022 at 10:00 a.m. Meeting times are subject to change and can be confirmed by referencing the agenda containing meeting location and remote access information available prior to the meeting at www.montecitowater.com or www.montsan.org. Customers of Montecito Water District and Montecito Sanitary District are encouraged to attend.

Montecito Water District’s Mission: 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 more information contact: 805.969.2271, www.montecitowater.com

Montecito Sanitary District’s Mission: A community service commitment to protect public health and safety and to preserve the natural environment through the collection, treatment and disposal of wastewater in the most cost-effective way possible. For more information contact 805.969.4200, www.montsan.org

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, like Montecito Water District on Facebook, and follow on twitter @MontecitoWater.