Montecito’s Groundwater Sustainability Plan Up for Adoption

By the Montecito Water District

The Montecito Groundwater Basin supplies water for numerous public and private wells and the Montecito Groundwater Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency (Montecito GSA) is the local agency responsible for developing a Groundwater Sustainability Plan to provide for long-term health of the basin. Groundwater is a very important local source of water that is heavily relied on for residential, commercial and agricultural use— particularly during periods of drought.

The Montecito GSA was founded in 2018 pursuant to California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) which took effect in 2015. Around the State, more than 260 local government agencies have been tasked with responsibility for this important water source.

Gaining a better understanding of the basin through data collection and analysis has been Montecito GSA’s focus in its first five years.

According to Montecito GSA’s Board President Brian Goebel, “We’re working to fill critical data gaps and focusing on comprehensive, consistent monitoring, modeling, and knowledge acquisition to keep groundwater supplies secure for all stakeholders without taking any unnecessary actions.”

To date the Montecito GSA has received more than $2.1 million in grant funds to develop the required Groundwater Sustainability Plan, which the agency has done with consultants and public involvement. Data collected and modeling performed to develop the Plan indicate that currently no undesirable results are occurring in the basin. The Plan also indicates that additional data is needed, specifies how it will be attained, and establishes local criteria for ongoing monitoring.

“We know a lot more about the basin than we did just a few years ago and we are doing our best to stay ahead of the curve,” says General Manager Nick Turner. “Groundwater is an essential resource, and this Plan provides a framework to protect it for all stakeholders for the foreseeable future using a methodical process and manageable projects.”

The final draft of the Montecito GSA’s Groundwater Sustainability Plan will be considered for adoption Friday, May 19 at 11a.m. during a Special Board Meeting to be held at 583 San Ysidro Road, Montecito California 93108. Remote access information can be found on the meeting agenda posted at that location and online at, along with a digital copy of the final draft plan.

A team of experts conducts a site visit on May 17, 2023 on Montecito Sanitary District’s property where construction is underway on this grant funded monitoring well being installed by Montecito GSA. From left: Wade Allmon (Rincon Consultants), Nick Kunstek (Montecito GSA), Matt Naftaly (Dudek), Jennifer Wong (Department of Water Resources) and Olivia Rojas (Montecito Water District). Present but not shown: Bryce Swetek (Montecito Sanitary District), Kiernan Brtalik (Rincon Consultants), Andrew Hillstrand (Numeric Solutions), Laura Camp and Tali Cook (Montecito Water District).

If adopted on Friday, the Plan will then be submitted to the State’s Department of Water Resources (DWR) for evaluation and an approval process which may take up to two years, as more than 100 plans are currently under review. To date DWR has approved 30 of the 36 plans already submitted. DWR is also evaluating applications for more than $200 million in additional grant funding for SGMA implementation statewide. The Montecito GSA has already applied for grant funding to help with plan implementation and will continue to pursue available funding opportunities.

In the meantime, current projects will continue, and those identified in the Plan will begin. One project example is monitoring wells, installed in strategic locations to provide reliable data at regular intervals which can be used to track indicators such as local groundwater levels and quality, seasonal groundwater flow, and potential seawater intrusion. A team of experts which included a representative from the California Department of Water Resources conducted a site visit of a grant-funded monitoring well currently being installed on Montecito Sanitary District’s property Wednesday, May 17, 2023. This local work is timely, crucial, and relevant statewide.

The Montecito GSA’s mission is to ensure a reliable and sustainable groundwater supply for the community through effective basin management pursuant to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), legislated in 2014, recognizes that groundwater provides a significant portion of California’s water supply and that groundwater resources are most effectively managed at the local or regional level. To learn more about the Montecito GSA and the importance of groundwater for the community visit ; email ; or call 805.324.4207.


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  1. It seems like we could easily eliminate all of the concerns we have with drought, ground water, and attempts to restrict water use by expanding desal capacity. If water was available in abundance at a low cost from utilities there would be less incentive to rely on ground water. Desal water could even eliminate the need to maintain large reservoirs and allow for the restoration of rivers that have been damed for decades. The cost to produce desal water is on the order of $3-5 per unit. However, the city of Santa Barbara charges nearly $5 per unit for the first couple of units and the rates rapidly escalate to nearly $30 per unit. What a rip-off! Those abusive rates make drilling a well and taxing the groundwater supply look like a bargain. Why can’t we expand desal production capacity and provide an abundant low cost water supply for everyone? It’s cheaper than what Santa Barbara is already charging, what gives?

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