An estimated 6 million people in Southern California will face water cutbacks next month — including some residents of Ventura County. Will Santa Barbara be impacted?
The short answer is no. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California will impose restrictions limiting outdoor watering to just one day a week beginning on June 1. The restrictions apply to cities and communities in Ventura, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties that depend on water from Northern California from the State Water Project.
Santa Barbara isn’t in Metropolitan Water District’s service area so it is not impacted by the latest restrictions.
However, the county does utilize the State Water Project as one of its water resources.
But conservation efforts have propped Santa Barbara up to be in relatively “good shape” as the drought continues.
“[W]e are in good shape, and we have sufficient water supplies to meet demands for the next three years,” Joshua Haggmark, the Water Resources Manager for the city of Santa Barbara, told the News-Press in an email. “Having said that, the current drought is serious, and we will be talking with our Water Commission and Council about taking steps to encourage more water conservation.”
In March, Mr. Haggmark told the Santa Barbara City Council the city has been conservative with its water supply planning strategy and should not expect any water shortages for the next couple of years.
Santa Barbara is using approximately 25% less water than it was using in 2013 — something that’s been consistent across the board over the past few years, he said. That 25% has resulted in about 3,400 acre-feet saved each year in Santa Barbara compared to 2013.
The U.S. Drought Monitor labeled Santa Barbara in the “severe drought” category as of its last update on April 28. Ventura County is in the “severe drought” category also, as is the majority of San Luis Obispo County.
Nearby Kern County is labeled in the “extreme drought” category which is worse.
Aside from the State Water Project, Santa Barbara also utilizes the Cachuma Reservoir, Gibraltar Reservoir, Devil’s Canyon Creek, Mission Tunnel, groundwater, and recycled water as resources.
California is in its third year of drought, with the first three months of 2022 bringing the lowest precipitation on record, according to the Department of Water Resources.
Drought is a gradual event that is based on impacts on water users — which can vary by location. Rainfall and runoff, the amount of water in storage or the expected water supply from a wholesaler can be measured and used to determine drought conditions.
As of Monday evening, 64% of groundwater wells were at below normal levels, 28% were at normal levels and 8% were at normal levels, according to California’s live statistics.
Last week, the Metropolitan Water District’s board declared a water shortage emergency for areas dependent on the State Water Project which led to the once-a-week outdoor watering restriction.
Impacted agencies are Calleguas Municipal Water District, Inland Empire Utilities Agency, Las Virgenes Municipal Water District, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Three Valleys Municipal Water District and Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District.
It will be up to the member agencies to enforce the water cutbacks on consumers.
“We’re doing everything we can to alleviate the immediate crisis and make investments to avoid this from happening again. But now we need the public’s help,” Gloria D. Gray, the Metropolitan Water District’s chairwoman, said. “We can get through this by working together.”