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Voluntary Conservation Called for as Drought Conditions Place Extra Demand on Water Supply

Yesterday the Governor called for 15% voluntary reduction in water use across California, and included Santa Barbara County in the expanded regional drought state of emergency. Montecito Water District customers reduced water consumption by a remarkable 56% during previous drought conditions.  However, use has ramped up significantly since December, 2020.  Customer demand was again reported as over budget at last month’s Board meeting.

Customer demand remained relatively low during the wet years, 2018 and 2019, that marked drought’s end—or hiatus. Below-average rainfall conditions returned in 2020-21 and customer demand has increased while water supply availability is decreasing. Pandemic-related restrictions, such as limited travel which meant more at-home time for residents, may have further contributed to increased local water use over the past year.

“We are hopeful that the Governor’s announcement will help our customers to prioritize water efficiency,” said Adam Kanold, Assistant General Manager and Engineering Manager for the District. “We’ve been going full-throttle to bolster the District’s supplies and infrastructure. Now we’re asking community members to partner with us in taking a hard look at what they can do to avoid water waste.”

Since 2016, the District has taken several actions to improve the dependability and drought resilience of its water supplies. These actions include purchasing groundwater storage rights in Semitropic Groundwater Banking and Exchange Program, establishing the Montecito Groundwater Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency, and finalizing a 50-year water supply agreement with the City of Santa Barbara secured by its desalination facility.  The District is also pursuing the development of a feasible recycled water project focused on maximizing the use of available wastewater.

Caption: Desalination and “Smart meters” are among the District’s many recent actions to improve drought resiliency.

The District’s Capital improvement projects provide other means of maximizing water efficiency and minimizing water loss. New “smart” meters have been installed for all customers, which will give them access to real time water use data when they are fully implemented this fall. Replacing aging pipelines, which the District does on a continuous schedule, makes them less vulnerable to main breaks that can contribute to water loss.

The District’s actions have significantly improved water supply security for the communities of Summerland and Montecito, yet supplies are likely to be stressed Statewide by the drought—and the District must adhere to its water budget. Droughts in California are forecast to continue increasing in intensity, duration and frequency and recent rainfall statistics emphasize the unknowns.

Customers are urged to carefully evaluate their properties and take advantage of any opportunities available to reduce water use–such as improving irrigation methods and improving landscaping.   The District is readily available to assist customers in comparing current usage with prior years, making adjustments to reduce use, and monitoring carefully for leaks. Free consultations are available with the District’s Conservation Specialist - please call 805.969.2271 for additional information.

Caption: In the past decade, only 3 years delivered above average rainfall. The “pack” is running well below average, and this past year was the lowest of the bunch.  

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.