Pixel Tracker

Tuesday, December 18 , 2018, 6:31 pm | Fair 55º


Goleta, La Cumbre Water Agencies Talk Strategy on Groundwater Resources

A management expert reports the results of a study on Goleta's groundwater basin

Managers from the Goleta Water District and neighboring La Cumbre Mutual Water Co. held a groundwater management workshop Wednesday night, giving ratepayers a chance to see a new plan to optimize groundwater resources over the next several years.

Steve Bachman, a well-known water resources management expert, recently completed a study on the state of Goleta’s groundwater basin, and his prognosis was that it’s in good shape.

“It’s good to plan when you’re having good times, because it’s much more difficult to do that when you’re having bad times,” said Bachman, adding that during the late 1980s, water levels in Goleta’s groundwater basin dropped as low as 85 feet below sea level. Normally, he said, groundwater levels that low would have caused saltwater intrusion from the ocean. But because of its unique hydrogeology — which includes a rock-lined fault along the basin’s edge — saltwater intrusion did not occur when the aquifer was overdrawn.

Groundwater study is a nebulous and highly technical science, and it’s constantly evolving. Bachman’s study arose from decades of controversy over how best to measure groundwater levels, which wells should be used for the measurements and more.

Even now, there is some controversy over Goleta’s 1991 Safe Water Supplies Ordinance, which was established in response to a severe multiyear drought that saw the district’s groundwater levels lower than they had ever been on record. Essentially, the level needs to be kept at 100 percent of its 1972 level for the district to have what the ordinance considers an adequate drought buffer. Failing that, the district can’t sell new connections to the water distribution system, among other sanctions.

Jack Ruskey, a regular at Goleta Water District meetings, said the 1972 levels described in the report are based on assumptions and approximations.

“The last thing this community needs is for assumptions to be put in concrete and have both (Goleta’s and La Cumbre’s) boards base their planning on that,” he said.

Steve Bachman explains groundwater management strategy to ratepayers.
Steve Bachman explains groundwater management strategy to ratepayers. (Ben Preston / Noozhawk photo)

Ruskey also took issue with the wells Bachman used for his study, saying there weren’t enough wells monitored.

“When you look at the map, there are vast areas of the basin not being monitored,” Ruskey said.

Bachman countered that he chose the seven wells used in the study because of past data available on them, and to avoid overrepresentation of data in certain areas.

“I would have used 13 wells if I thought it made a difference, but it wouldn’t have, so I didn’t,” he said.

The study also laid out provisions for more automated monitoring of the basin, both for water level and water quality. Contamination from gas stations and underground tanks over the years has caused a number of problem areas, but Bachman said that because of a clay layer on top of the aquifer, none of the 77 contamination sites listed by the California Water Resources Control Board have caused significant problems in Goleta’s groundwater basin.

Another issue touched on was use of recycled water. While some areas of Southern California are using recycled water to recharge groundwater basins, Bachman suggested that because of the negative association some people have with recycled water, it’s better not to have to use it in that capacity.

“I don’t think this basin needs recycled water for (groundwater basin) injection, he said, “but it’s always a good idea to use it for outside irrigation.”

Bachman suggested to the two boards that the groundwater plan be revisited every five years or so, even if only to make minor revisions.

Noozhawk staff writer Ben Preston can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.