Montecito Water District Urges Customers to Reduce Water Use

Montecito Water District Urges Customers to Reduce Water Use title=
Montecito Water District Urges Customers to Reduce Water Use
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Source: Montecito Water District

With one eye on necessary planning for drought resilience and the other on potential future funding opportunities, Montecito Water District’s Board of Directors voted unanimously in favor of Resolution 2212 to adopt the Urban Water Management Plan (Plan) 2020 update this week.

The Plan may now be submitted to the California Department of Water Resource (DWR) for review and filing prior to the July 1, 2021 deadline. Consultants Jim Crowley of Zanjero Water and Greg Young of Tully & Young assisted with the preparation of the Plan, and presented at Tuesday’s meeting. This was the final in a series of presentations provided at Strategic Planning Committee and Board meetings as the plan was developed with feedback from the Board, staff and members of the public over the past several months. This process is typical for these Plans, which are mandated by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) for use as a long-range planning tool covering a 20-year period.

Three challenges unique to the District’s service area of Montecito and Summerland were identified pertaining to population, applying an incentive for desalinated water, and small agricultural operations:

First, determining an accurate count of population in the District’s service area is challenging due to inaccurate census data and lack of alternative data sources. Factors include difficulty in accounting for second or seasonal homeowners, seasonal populations at educational and commercial or hospitality institutions, and domestic staff which may increase household usage. While inaccurate population counts can have significant implications under current water use regulations, population is expected to be less significant in future water use regulations. District staff will continue to research methods to account for currently unaccounted population to most accurately reflect actual water demand.

Second, State water use legislation provides a bonus incentive for an urban retail water supplier that delivers water from a groundwater basin, reservoir, or other source that is augmented by potable reuse water. Currently no legislation identifies desalinated water as part of this incentive program, however the District’s position is that it should be included. District staff have expressed a desire to DWR to include desalinated water as part of the incentive program, as a credit to the District’s water use objective.

Third, draft guidance from DWR appears to acknowledge the growing trend of residential or community garden projects such as hobby farms, personal small farms, or community food producers. Some residential parcels in the District may also have small agricultural operations; the products of these agricultural operations are typically donated or sold at local markets. District staff will continue to monitor DWR guidance and advocate for this potential variance.

The State is in the process of creating a new foundation for urban water use limitations in an effort to “make conservation a way of life in California”. The methodology for standards and variances for all categories of water use are being developed by DWR and the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) and are expected to be complete by June 2022. District staff are monitoring each category closely through attendance at DWR workshops and working groups, and analyzing possible impacts of standards as they are released. Compliance with State water use regulations is vital for eligibility on State funding on upcoming projects.

Customers Urged to Ramp Up Conservation Efforts

With climate change and potential severity of future droughts unknown, voluntary conservation continues to be an essential component for water supply planning locally and Statewide. In 2009, SBX7-7 set a requirement for urban water suppliers to reduce demands 20% by 2020. The District was in full compliance with SBX7-7 water use targets in both 2015 and 2020, with customer conservation ranging as high as 56%.

District water consumption began increasing when the drought subsided in 2019 and continues to climb. At the same time, with the lack of rainfall in 2020 and 2021 to date, extreme drought conditions have returned. Avoiding water waste is again a “must do” for all customers in the face of many unknowns, and the District is intent on getting the word out and providing conservation tips. Community awareness and action is needed to ensure that water supplies secured through careful planning will be sufficient.

“With the drought condition worsening we are asking all customers to partner with us immediately to reduce usage,” stated Nick Turner, General Manager. “The District is well positioned with a drought resilient portfolio, but customer use is now over-budget and supplies are not unlimited.”

The District urges all customers to compare current usage with prior years and make adjustments as needed to reduce use, monitor carefully for leaks, and to take advantage of a free consultation with the District’s Conservation Specialist. Additional information is available on the web site:, or by calling 805.969.2271.

U.S. Drought Monitor Map Released Thursday June 24, 2021, shows District in Extreme Drought

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biguglystick Jul 09, 2021 12:13 PM
Montecito Water District Urges Customers to Reduce Water Use

Now THERE'S an idea!! But, to be honest, I'd rather NOT see California flush with water anytime soon... it would mean a massive building spurt, and we just DON'T need anymore people or building here.

ChillinGrillin Jul 08, 2021 08:50 PM
Montecito Water District Urges Customers to Reduce Water Use

Agriculture uses 80% of water in California. I drove through the Central Valley last week and it looked like a scene from the movie Idiocracy. Giant sprinklers and dirt canals were wasting water in 100+ heat while signs near the highway screamed incoherently at Newsom. On one plot a tractor was plowing over rows of lettuce, which means at least a month and a half of water was totally wasted. Until the farmer welfare queens are forced to stop wasting water, cutting back our tiny fraction of urban water use is in proportionate terms a drop in the bucket.

PitMix Jul 09, 2021 11:12 AM
Montecito Water District Urges Customers to Reduce Water Use

Are all of the people complaining about the water use by ag really okay with government heavily regulating what crops can be grown and how much water can be used? I get the feeling that at least some of you would not like this at all if they tried to implement it.
Water usage stems from our antiquated water laws giving senior rights users the ability to flood irrigate their crops. But if they didn't flood irrigate, how would they drive the salts out of the root zone? Drip irrigating concentrates salts, right? Eventually rendering the land infertile?

SBTownie Jul 08, 2021 05:03 PM
Montecito Water District Urges Customers to Reduce Water Use

I do not plan to reduce my water usage. Santa Barbara has enough water for a few years. I also do not plan to xeriscape my property, as so many have done. A gravel covered lot with some cacti does nothing but reflect heat back into the environment. I will keep my property semi-lush with my native milkweed, my manzanitas, and my numerous pollinator friendly flowers. Residents are not the problem in California. Agriculture is. As I stated in another comment on this article, we need to end California being the world's bread, fruit, and veggie basket. Let's make farming great again in other parts of the country that don't experience water issues. Let's end the corn subsidy and stop paying farmers to grow endless junk crops like diabetes-inducing corn, and reclaim some of that land for growing better food. Let's also stop the free-for-all on the water table in places like Cuyama where the carrot farmers decided a high desert was a great place to grow carrots of all crops, watering them 24/7 in that arid climate. The history of water and water wars in the West is fascinating and there are many interesting documentaries available on YouTube for those interested.

Channelfog Jul 10, 2021 04:19 AM
Montecito Water District Urges Customers to Reduce Water Use

SB Townie- I will refrain from commenting on your personal watering decisions and it does sound like you have drought tolerant native plants. As to the rest of your post "Here! Here!" I agree on all points. I recommend Mark Reisners' book, "Cadillac Desert" to anyone who wants to understand the water history of SoCal and how we got where we are.

RHS Jul 08, 2021 04:16 PM
Montecito Water District Urges Customers to Reduce Water Use

SB City has sold desalinated water to Montecito WD at less than the cost of production to keep the desal plant going. Montecito WD has applied to the state to allow them to put the desalinated water into the aquifer so the Montecito well people can pump it back and use it for free. Meanwhile the ratepayers of SB are paying by far the highest top end rates. Doesn't anyone pay attention?

RHS Jul 09, 2021 11:03 AM
Montecito Water District Urges Customers to Reduce Water Use

Pit, it is hard to address your question within the constraints of Edhat but here are some thoughts. The cost of desal water in SB is not $2K AF. Five years ago the Carlsbad plant was costing more than $2400AF for example. And the real price is higher when one includes the capital costs which in SB are well over $100M with additional millions to be spent in environmental mitigation work. We need to know what the contractor is guaranteed, the cost of the energy, the maintenance and the amortized cost of the construction, including in the case of the MWD deal, the cost of the pipeline installed to deliver the water to MWD. The city says (in its weekly newsletter) it is delivering the desal water to MWD at "wholesale" costs so one would assume that the minimum cost to SB is what MWD is paying. So at best the price being paid is a break even. But this is a bit of a dodge since MWD didn't have to foot the capital costs. We know that SB has had distribution problems within its service area and found it hard to use what it was obligated to produce (or pay for at least) per the long term contract with the desal builder/licensor. But as noted before we don't have access to the real costs over time. On the other hand, MWD is getting this water so cheaply that they are lobbying the state to be allowed to pump the desal water into the ground so the wells there can pump it out for free. And, again, the top rates paid by SB users are substantially higher than MWD or Goleta or Carpinteria at every level but the absolute most minimal. MWD is about 2/3 less than SB at the high end. So users in SB are seemingly subsidizing MWD and paying more than local services which leads one to think that this is due to the one difference between us and these others: the desalination costs (as noted, more than $100M in infrastructure and future mitigation requirement construction) plus the expense of actual operation. etc.

PitMix Jul 09, 2021 09:35 AM
Montecito Water District Urges Customers to Reduce Water Use

I know you have said this before. So I looked it up. Average cost of desal water is $2,000/ac-ft. Montecito is paying $4.6M annually for 1,430 ac-ft/yr, or about $3200/ac-ft. Care to elaborate how they are not paying enough and provide links for your data?

Chip of SB Jul 08, 2021 03:08 PM
Montecito Water District Urges Customers to Reduce Water Use

Cutting back on water usage is not a viable long term solution. For decades, population growth in California has exploded while the construction of new water infrastructure has slowed to a trickle. Our population growth has finally reversed to population decline as people move to other states like Texas and Idaho that offer a much higher standard of living for families with working class incomes. Instead of squeezing those who can least afford it further, we need to expand our water infrastructure dramatically to meet demand. It’s time to make California green again by providing an abundance of water for everyone.

MarcelK Jul 10, 2021 09:06 AM
Montecito Water District Urges Customers to Reduce Water Use

The water has evaporated due to global warming driven by greenhouse gases. And that global warming is not caused by poor forest management or any of the other deflections that climate science deniers blather about.

SBTownie Jul 08, 2021 04:57 PM
Montecito Water District Urges Customers to Reduce Water Use

Residents are not the problem. Ag is. We should move a huge portion of ag out of California and make farming great again in areas of the country without water issues. We don't need to be the world's bread and fruit and veggie basket.

Channelfog Jul 08, 2021 02:35 PM
Montecito Water District Urges Customers to Reduce Water Use

Gen tree- I'm ignorant about the water trucking. The well was decades pre Oprah, but perhaps it was failing??? Every water well driller I've worked with say, " The water is where you find it." How long it survives more wells/pumping? Another matter?

Channelfog Jul 08, 2021 02:29 PM
Montecito Water District Urges Customers to Reduce Water Use

About Mrs. Bacon: She pumped her prodigious well very conservatively. The huge multiacre lawn to the north was allowed to go brown every year. She and her husband had white garden chairs facing North into the perfect v canyon overlooking the small pond and said brown/green lawn. The old silver station wagon her driver took her around in was in keeping with her minimal lifestyle. In terms of extravagant consumption, Mrs. Bacon was the antithesis of this.

GeneralTree Jul 08, 2021 02:13 PM
Montecito Water District Urges Customers to Reduce Water Use

Cool - love local info. Did she find that well after she had water trucked in? I remember that being a big deal at the time.

Channelfog Jul 08, 2021 01:50 PM
Montecito Water District Urges Customers to Reduce Water Use

GENTREE- The Bacon Estate, aka Oprahs' has one of the best producing water wells in Montecito. It is located roughly 100ft North of the house. Her house (the original modest Bacon house location) is on a rise that was formed by upthrust from the La Parida Fault. To the North of the rise, said fault roughly follows East Valley rd. Water wells north of this fault are huge, south are naught. I drilled 2 wells South of this line and they were duds (3gpm) and hard/flouride. Oprah will be one of the last South Coast residents to run out of water.

Babycakes Jul 08, 2021 11:54 AM
Montecito Water District Urges Customers to Reduce Water Use

People with money are not going to reduce water consumption. They will use water as they have all along, and simply pay whatever the water bill or "fine" might be. Oprah's local house has at least 11 bathrooms, Al Gore's home has 7 bathrooms, and Harry/Megan's place has 16 bathrooms.....and each their houses have ponds, spas, pools, fountains, etc. World-class "eco-warriors" who only talk the talk. It's the regular schlubs who will carry the weight, as usual. God bless them for their wealth, but shame on their carbon footprints.

Channelfog Jul 08, 2021 02:06 PM
Montecito Water District Urges Customers to Reduce Water Use

The 4 water wells at Harry and Megans house produce little (12 gpm combined), which is not much for a 7 acre estate. It was most frustrating drilling 4 bad wells. In search, we went 700' deep on the NW well, where we entered ancient saline deposits, not good. The South Coast Hydrology is extremely varied and sketchy.

Ahchooo Jul 08, 2021 01:18 PM
Montecito Water District Urges Customers to Reduce Water Use

Number of bathrooms isn’t necessarily indicative of water usage. We have two toilets at my house but flush no more often than if we had just one. If we had six, we’d still flush the same number of times. (I suppose a bit more water would be used keeping six bathrooms clean.) But the ponds, spas, lush landscaping, those really suck up the water.

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