Montecito Water District Ready to Switch to Stage 1 Drought

By the Montecito Water District

This week Montecito Water District’s Board of Directors passed Ordinance 98, updating water use restrictions to be consistent with current water supply conditions. However, the change won’t take effect until existing State emergency drought regulations terminate which is currently scheduled to happen on May 24, 2023.

In late December 2022 and continuing through February 2023, several atmospheric rivers brought record setting rainfall and snowpack across the State, including in Santa Barbara County. These storms filled local reservoirs, including Jameson Lake and the Cachuma Project, and significantly improved the conditions of State Water Project supplies. As a result, the District’s 3‐year water supply outlook indicates sufficient water supply to meet customer demand without projected water shortages. Better yet, current conditions provide an opportunity for the District to store surplus water for future use in its established groundwater banking program with Semitropic. On a daily basis, the water supply agreement with the City of Santa Barbara (desalination) continues to supply approximately 30‐40% of the District’s regular use.

“The community was very responsive to our enhanced outreach this past fall when water use was running over budget and the winter forecast was dry,” says General Manager Nick Turner. “Communications are just as important now, and we want the public to know that conditions have improved. Still, our message remains much the same – use water wisely and avoid water waste. It’s not a question of if but when drought conditions will return.”

The District has had water use restrictions in place continuously for nearly a decade. Climactic conditions have varied dramatically year to year, while the District has completed numerous projects to improve drought resilience with an emphasis on local, reliable supplies.

“2019’s extreme rainfall was followed by the 3 driest years on record—there really is no ‘average’ anymore,” commented Director Floyd Wicks. “Conservation as a Way of Life has to be baked into our plan. We’re still pursuing recycled water, and we’re moving towards water targets per parcel for supply planning and to support customers in planning their water use.”

The new Ordinance doesn’t change much with regards to water use restrictions and like its predecessor, which was adopted when the State mandated moving to Stage 2 last spring, it includes water use efficiencies and best practices, many of which are supported by the District’s new Rebate Program introduced in December 2022 along with a long‐term Water Use Efficiency Plan. Information on current regulations, rebates, and more can be found online at


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