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Goleta Water District Considering Stricter Drought Restrictions

Agricultural water delivery to Goleta West Conduit customers could be stopped next year if water supplies don't improve

Dwindling Lake Cachuma water levels mean the Goleta Water District might stop agricultural water deliveries to the 22 customers using the Goleta West Conduit for avocado and lemon orchards next year.

Groundwater is starting to supply the majority of district water, and the Goleta West Conduit is a direct line from Lake Cachuma, which is at 15-percent capacity.

No new water is being allocated to local districts, and Goleta has little banked water left in the reservoir.

The district is assuming the worst — that El Niño winter storms won’t bring enough water to change the drought forecast.

In that case, the board will soon consider declaring the next water shortage emergency stage — which will ban watering lawns and enact another round of drought surcharges to make up for lost revenues from customer conservation.

The district passed rate increases and a new drought surcharge in June and got sued twice challenging the move, by a property owner and group of farmers.

Looking forward, members of the district’s water management and long range planning committee meet Dec. 17 and will decide whether to recommend moving to Stage IV, the next drought phase that brings additional restrictions.

Since Stage III was declared in May, customers have cut water use by 27 percent, according to the district.

The Goleta West Conduit used 120 acre-feet of water in November, and its customers accounted for 14 percent of water deliveries for the district last year.

The district is allowed to stop agricultural water service to the line when Lake Cachuma supplies get low, according to a staff report.

In May, when the line is expected to be “interrupted” for agricultural water, monthly deliveries to the Goleta West Conduit would be 4.9 acre-feet.

The Goleta West Conduit serves 37 percent of agricultural land within the water district service area. It’s mostly avocado orchards — 82 percent — and lemon orchards, according to the district.

If the situation gets better, with rain or purchased water supplies, that May date could get pushed to 2017, according to the district.

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli 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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