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Recent Storms Barely Make a Dent in Santa Barbara’s Water Deficit

Most local communities have received less than half of normal rainfall so far this year

Recent rains have greened up the hills west of Goleta, providing feed for cattle but doing little to ease the region’s water deficit.
Recent rains have greened up the hills west of Goleta, providing feed for cattle but doing little to ease the region’s water deficit.  (Tom Bolton / Noozhawk photo)

By Tom Bolton, Noozhawk Executive Editor | @tombol |

The drought's grip on Santa Barbara County eased somewhat with the storms that doused the region in March, but most local communities have recorded less than half the normal rainfall for this point in the season.

While last month's rainfall definitely was welcome, it made only a small dent in the area's water deficit.

Lake Cachuma has fared the best during the rain season that began Sept. 1, 2013, according to figures provided by the Santa Barbara County Flood Control District.

Cachuma has received 10.41 inches of rain, which amounts to 57 percent of the average.

Lompoc and Santa Ynez both have recorded 54 percent of normal rainfall, while Sisquoc, east of of Santa Maria, is at 52 percent.

All other county locations are at less than half of normal: Santa Barbara, 47 percent; Goleta, 40 percent; Santa Maria, 39 percent, and Carpinteria, 32 percent.

There has been little change in county reservoir levels, with Cachuma at 38.6 percent of capacity — and more than 50 feet below spill level — while Gibraltar Reservoir on the upper Santa Ynez River is at 35.6 percent.

The rains of March definitely helped cattle ranches, by greening up range lands, but many already had thinned out their herds significantly due to the high cost of feed.

Water purveyors in the county, most of whom have called for either voluntary or mandatory cutbacks in water use, no doubt were happy with the recent storm, as were local fire agencies.

But they — along with local fire officials — also are mindful that the months that traditionally see the greatest rainfall — December through March — are over, and the dry season is quickly approaching.

And while April showers kicked off the month — dropping between half an inch and an inch of rain in most locations — the forecast through next week is for sunny skies and summer-like temperatures, with highs in the 80s expected by Monday.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton 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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