Water could soon be flowing again from the Bicentennial Friendship Fountain, the bronze sculpture of three dolphins that sits at the entrance to Stearns Wharf.
Though the city’s Waterfront Department had already been looking to turn the fountain back on for the first time since 2014, the Santa Barbara City Council voted Tuesday to get the fountain up and running as soon as possible.
The council also unanimously approved easing the city’s water supply condition from Stage 3 to Stage 1 and to add $100,000 to a professional services agreement with Bartkiewicz, Kronick & Shanahan for specialized water rights-related legal services.
The vote to restart the fountain passed 6-1 with Councilwoman Kristen Sneddon opposed.
By reverting back to Stage 1 conditions, the city’s water conservation target is at 15 percent, down from 30 percent under Stage 3, compared to 2013 water usage.
The vote also signals that many water conservation requirements — such as irrigating in the evening, washing boats and cars at proper facilities, and refraining from serving water at restaurants unless requested — are only recommendations and will no longer be enforced.
Ms. Sneddon expressed fear that repealing the resolution that made it a requirement for “waterwise” practices may send the wrong message to city residents.
“All of those are just good sound practices even if Cachuma’s spilling,” she said, referring to the Lake Cachuma reservoir.
“I just think it sends a message to the community if we have fountains running that that’s how we treat our potable water — is just running. I love the dolphin fountain and would like to see if given special treatment but not with our fresh drinking water,” Ms. Sneddon said.
The fountain uses potable water and city staff members said health and safety concerns prevent using recycled water in the fountain. Staff will examine using salt water.
Kelley Dyer, water supply manager for the city, reiterated that the message of water conservation is not going away.
“We will continue with public outreach and public messaging and we’re happy to incorporate these recommendations into our public outreach and messaging through that avenue as well,” she said.
“I have every faith that you will and that the messaging will continue,” Ms. Sneddon replied. “What I’m worried about is a headline that reads ‘repealed’ and that all of these are repealed.”
Councilman Jason Dominguez said that replacing the resolution would “fill the gaps” left by the repeal.
“It might have a few, fewer mandatory proclamations in it but really there would be then an opportunity for a headline in a few weeks that gives people in Santa Barbara, we’re the city that created Earth Day, a chance to say ‘Hey, were still a city that believe in saving water and conserving this resource,’ ” he said.
Councilwoman Meagan Harmon, after admitting that she’s never washed her car, said the Water Commission should be focusing on new issues and that if conservation were to become a larger issue the council could revisit the discussion.
“I cannot imagine that repealing this ordinance would cause us to change behavior that has become so deeply ingrained,” she said.
Mr. Dominguez raised questions on the work of Bartkiewicz, Kronick & Shanahan, which has been in a contractual arrangement with the city since 2008.
City Attorney Ariel Calonne said the firm deals with the State Water Resources Control Board and the Bureau of Reclamation on water rights-related issues.
One city staff member likened their work to that of the quarterback of a football team and said there could be “significant losses” if they were removed or replaced.
“We’re paying for Tom Brady, so I hope we’re getting a Tom Brady-like performance,” Mr. Dominguez said. “We want to bring that Lombardi Trophy home soon.”
Also on Tuesday, the council approved a pair of contracts for park renovation projects, one for the Cabrillo Pavilion and the other for the Arroyo Burro open space area. The council also moved forward with a professional services agreement for design work for the Ortega Park renovation project. All three items were on Tuesday’s consent calendar.