Water Supply Update
The article below is from a recent mailing to customers explaining why allocations have not changed and how the District has taken every feasible action to purchase and deliver the maximum amount of water to customers. The mailer sent to customers and the article below also both explain what it will take to end the allocations.
Water Supply Update
Local lakes essentially empty after five years of drought. Although Northern California received significant amounts of rain this past winter, the exceptional drought, now in its 5th year, continues to plague the South Coast. Cachuma and Jameson Lakes, which historically provide over half the District’s annual water supplies (about 4,500 acre-feet) are nearly empty – currently, providing less than 10% of historical deliveries.
Limited groundwater is diminishing. The District has maximized ground- water pumping capacity at about 500 acre-feet per year, roughly double its historical average. The District has much less groundwater than neigh- boring communities, and, without rain, groundwater levels are declining.
To replace diminishing local supplies, the District continues to secure imported supplemental water. The District has completed the purchase of 5,000 acre-feet of supplemental water from Northern California, and is expecting to complete an agreement to purchase 2,000 acre-feet more water from Santa Maria before the end of summer. This, along with past purchases of supplemental water, imported Table A (State) water at 60% allocation (1,980 acre-feet), and limited local supplies will provide enough water to meet current customer water use levels into 2020, even if the drought continues. Montecito Water District continues seeking to purchase additional supplemental supplies.
Limited capacity in imported pipeline slows ability to get supplemental water to customers. Both the District’s supplemental water and its imported Table A water supplies are stored in Northern California and must be pumped through the State Water Project Coastal Branch pipeline into Lake Cachuma before delivery to customers. The District’s capacity to deliver water through this pipeline is limited to its State Water Project Table A full allocation of 3,300 acre-feet per year. Opportunities to deliver additional supplemental water above 3,300 acre-feet per year only arise in the rare instances when other imported water users are not utilizing their full allocated pipeline capacity.
The Authority overseeing the operation of this Coastal Branch pipeline recently implemented a project that increases the delivery capacity to Lake Cachuma by approximately 6%. Additional changes or additions are being explored that are expected to provide small increases in imported water deliveries to Lake Cachuma. Larger increases in pumping capacity are not viable.
Increasing water deliveries to customers is not possible without additional rain or development of other local supplies. In an effort to increase local water supplies, the District is continuing to pursue desalination with the City of Santa Barbara, and also investigating the feasibility of using recycled water to irrigate landscaping.
Continuing negotiations with Santa Barbara regarding use of the City’s desalination facility. Given the high cost of desalinating water, both the City and District understand that a long-term agreement for the regional use of the City’s desalinated facility must be fair to both agencies and their ratepayers. To complete the analysis necessary to establish a Water Supply Agreement, the District and City are sharing costs to pay for the next steps needed, including: legal, engineering, permitting, and other technical work.
Monthly Allocations and Conservation Must Remain in Effect. Because local lakes are nearly empty, ground- water is diminishing, and imported supplemental supplies cannot be brought in any faster through the imported water pipeline, monthly allocations and conservation must remain in effect.
The District Board of Directors and staff have taken every feasible action to purchase and deliver the maximum amount of water to customers, and we sincerely regret not being able to deliver more water. We are working with all the Cachuma stakeholders to maximize the water that can be delivered from the drought-depleted lake. When planned new local sources are available and/or significant rainfall fills local lakes, the current allocation and conservation mandates will be reviewed and reduced or eliminated as soon as possible.