Sunday, October 4 , 2015, 4:37 am | Overcast 63º

Drought Forces Shutoff of Showers at El Capitan State Beach Campground

By Lara Cooper, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @laraanncooper |

Campers at El Capitan State Beach are now experiencing Santa Barbara County's drought on an uncomfortable personal level.

The beach's public showers are no longer open because the site's well can't keep up with demand. 

The campground books spaces months in advance — there are three campers waiting for each space taken — and on a busy weekend, the campground will use about 30,000 gallons of water, said Eric Hjelstrom, who is the Santa Barbara sector superintendent for the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

"We're just barely meeting demand at this point," he told Noozhawk on Monday.

The showers have been shut down since last Thursday, and the entire campground is serviced by one well located in a nearby canyon.

"For several years, we've noticed a steady drop-off (in supply), and it's gradually gotten worse and worse," Hjelstrom said.

He and his staff were hoping the well could provide enough water until Labor Day, when campground visitation drops off.

About a week ago, however, the water reserve started to dip below what the beach needed for its critical fire reserve.

Hjelstrom said water services at Refugio State Beach, just a few miles away from El Capitan, haven't been affected and that campers can use showers there, since Refugio has a different well and aquifer. 

Gaviota State Beach showers are also still open, but the well servicing that campground also has a low water level and is undergoing a major system overhaul. 

It's unclear when the showers will be reopened, and an emergency pump replacement is also taking place as well as repairs to deal with iron build-up in the pipes.

"The last thing we want to do is surprise people," Hjelstrom said, adding he is working to update people through his Facebook page.

Hjelstrom said people can ask for a refund if they decide not to camp there because of the showers, but added that flush toilets and faucets still work in the park.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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