Monday, April 21 , 2014, 3:35 am | Mostly Cloudy 53.0º

What the Dry Weather Means for Our Water Supply

By Madeline Ward for the City of Santa Barbara |

If you’ve driven by Lake Cachuma recently, you may have noticed the water level is lower than it has been in years. Although Cachuma is one of our main water supplies, the City of Santa Barbara has a wide variety of other sources to pull from and is working diligently to prevent a water supply shortage from happening.

“As soon as Lake Cachuma stops spilling, we assume that it’s not going to spill again for six years because we want to manage our water supplies so if that occurs, we will be able and ready to respond," said Rebecca Bjork, acting public works director. "Ever since it stopped spilling in 2011, we have been planning for where we are right now, and where we will be next summer.”

Should the dry weather persist, it will push us toward a water supply shortage.

“We are currently in year three of the six-year dry weather period that we use for planning; we are expecting that in year four we would start to see a water supply shortage,” said Kelley Dyer, water supply analyst.

Water conservation is one of the main components of the dry weather plan, and remains a top priority not only during dry times, but during wet years as well. Over the past 25 years, the water conservation efforts of the city’s residents and businesses has played a major factor in why we are not facing a water shortage after the two most recent dry winters.

But even with the conservation measures that have been demonstrated in the past, continued water conservation will always be important.

“When we come into a very dry period and the city declares a drought, we will be asking our water customers for extraordinary water conservation, above and beyond normal, everyday water conservation, and we would only ask it for the period of time that we are experiencing a water shortage,“ said Alison Jordan, water conservation supervisor.

To lessen the impact of a water supply shortage, we can all be making efforts to save water now. What is the No. 1 action to take to save water? Increasing efficiency in your garden water use! The best thing to do is to check your sprinklers while they are on to make sure they are working properly and to turn down your watering schedule for the winter, or off when it rains. The City of Santa Barbara can help you do this with a free water checkup for your home or business to look at your garden’s water usage and sprinkler timer and see what measures can be taken to be more water wise, and any potential rebates you may qualify for.

By taking a few simple steps to save water in your home, business and garden now, you could save our city from a serious water shortage in the future. Click here to learn more about our water supplies and water conservation.

— Madeline Ward is a water resources technician for the City of Santa Barbara.

Lake Cachuma's water level is lower than it has been in years. (City of Santa Barbara photo)

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