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Local News

Goleta Water District Remains Optimistic About Its Water Supply Despite Drought

The board may decide in March to ask residents to cut usage voluntarily

The Goleta Water District insists it’s well-positioned during the drought due to its diverse water supply, but it will be relying on groundwater much more as time goes by.

Unlike its neighbors in Santa Barbara and Montecito, Goleta hasn’t declared a drought or water shortage yet.

General Manager John McInnes said the city’s robust supplies and water-saving residents have given the district an advantage. However, it’s not immune from the drought and winter’s warm weather, and customer demand has never been higher. Compared to last January, customers used 90 percent more water this year.

He recommended that the full board declare a water shortage at the March 11 meeting, which would ask residents to cut usage voluntarily. The district won’t consider mandatory water cuts until August, according to the plan presented at Thursday’s meeting.

Goleta isn’t worried about running out of water like other jurisdictions, but admits its positive outlook is based on a lot of assumptions: that the groundwater wells don’t break down and that the State Water Project starts giving a 5 percent allocation starting next year.

It assumes that Lake Cachuma water will be cut in half next year and down to nothing in 2015-16.

“We’ll have water to live off for some time,” McInnes said.

The district put a fifth groundwater well into production on Thursday and is doing construction to get another one working by October. It's putting a lot of effort into boosting groundwater production and estimates that it will have 6,000 acre-feet of it by 2015-16, while it only has about 3,500 acre-feet now.

It’s the first time in recent memory that the district has so significantly relied on groundwater as a primary water supply, according to district staff.

The Goleta Water District has been using much more state water since December and is moving all the carryover (unused from previous years) down from San Luis Reservoir to Lake Cachuma.

Board member Bert Bertrando expressed concern that residents wouldn’t use less water unless financial penalties were attached, which doesn’t happen with a declared water shortage.

Future drought stages would ban new water customers, which could impact development projects in the Goleta Valley. The district allocates a finite amount of water for new connections every year and still has plenty left, but the second-stage drought declaration would put a moratorium on new water accounts.

The Goleta Water District keeps track of all in-progress and pending projects in the area, which include a lot of hotels and residential complexes being built right now.

The district will discuss buying more water through the Central Coast Water Authority at Friday's board meeting. CCWA is considering a contract with Sierra Water Group Inc., the water broker already working with Santa Barbara and Montecito water districts.

Noozhawk staff writer 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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