The Montecito Water District approved a water supply agreement with the city of Santa Barbara last week during a special board meeting.
Both parties have been negotiating a long-term water supply agreement in connection with the 2017 restart of the city’s Charles E. Meyer desalination facility. The agencies approved a term sheet in January 2019 for a 50-year water supply partnership, in which the city would provide and the district would purchase 1,430 acre-feet of water per year, according to officials.
With the approval, water deliveries and the associated payments will begin Jan. 1, 2022.
“This was an historic meeting that represents a significant achievement in regional collaboration and water supply planning. It is a culmination of years of hard work and will provide benefits for the long-term – at least the next 50 years,” Nick Turner, MWD’s General Manager, said in a statement. “We are excited to move forward in partnership with the City, which will meet to consider the agreement next month.”
The Santa Barbara City Council will discuss whether to approve the agreement during Tuesday’s meeting.
As part of approving the WSA, the district will prefund four years of expenses over the five-year rate setting period, amounting to an annual expense of nearly $3.6 million. Actual expenses will not become due until January 2022 and will extend through the end of fiscal year 2025, according to officials.
Also on Thursday, the district adopted new water rates that went into effect Friday, with changes expected to appear on the customers’ August invoice. Based on the rate study analysis that supported the rate change, the district anticipates that 56% of customers will see a decrease or no change in their monthly bill. The district has a rate calculator on its website for those interested in the impact. It can be found at www.montecitowater.com.
The new rate structure removes the Water Shortage Emergency Surcharge that was implemented in 2015 to fund additional expenses resulting from the drought.
“Rewarding conservation was an important consideration in restructuring the rates, and the small volume user is going to come out ahead,” Ken Coates, director and finance committee member for the district, said in a statement.
The new rates mark the district’s first changes since 2016. Rate plans are typically implemented every three to five years. The district continues conducting “business as usual to the extent possible” during the current pandemic.
On Tuesday, the district’s annual drinking water report will be posted online.