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Friday, November 16 , 2018, 9:01 pm | Fair 54º


Montecito District Buys Water From City of Santa Maria

Montecito Water District board president Dick Shaikewitz said he has been asking everyone if they have water to sell, and he found a taker close by.  

Santa Maria’s City Council voted to sell 2,000 acre-feet of water, and Montecito’s board unanimously OK’d the sale this week.

The water currently is stored in the San Luis Reservoir in Merced County, and will be purchased for $600 per acre-foot.

Half the water deliveries and payment will happen now, and the other half in about a year, according to the agreement.

Most water sale deals include a return of some sort — the buyer agreeing to pay for the water and deliver some amount of water to the seller in the future — but this agreement includes no return.

The city of Santa Barbara’s most recent sale from the Antelope Valley-East Kern Water Agency had a 50-percent return, but the Department of Water Resources may require a larger exchange rate for the 4,000 acre-feet, according to city water officials.

Santa Maria uses State Water Project and local groundwater to supply its own residents.

While it is moving to a conservation standard of zero, conserving water will “continue to be a way of life in Santa Maria” and water use restrictions are still in effect, according to the city.

Montecito still has rationing implemented, with allocations assigned to each customer class and parcel size for single-family homes.

Water customers used about 75 percent of the allocated amounts for the 2015-16 water year, which started in October.

Board member Doug Morgan said the cumulative effect of the drought could cause people to start using more water in the future. His trees and bushes are hurting, and his own water usage will go up — possibly even beyond his allocation, he said.

Over the last year, 4,264 customers went over their rationed water amount. Click to view larger
Over the last year, 4,264 customers went over their rationed water amount.  (Montecito Water District photo)

If customers started using 100 percent of their allocations right now, the district wouldn’t have enough water to meet demand, and would have to reduce the allocations again, district officials said.

Last year, customers used 3,440 acre-feet of water out of the 4,600 acre-feet allocated.

The district considers 300 HCF (224,400 gallons) to be the water needed for essential use and a drought buffer, and 71.7 percent of single-family residence customers used less than 300 HCF last year, general manager Nicholas Turner said.

On the other side of the coin, there are three single-family residential customers who used more than 5,000 HCF last year, which amounts to 3.7 million gallons.

Montecito is almost completely reliant on State Water Project and purchased supplemental water, but the intake pipeline to Lake Cachuma has limited capacity.

Montecito expects it can only deliver 3,300 acre-feet per year, although it has more than 8,000 acre-feet stored in the San Luis Reservoir.

The district’s local sources don’t produce much: Jameson Reservoir is nearly empty and is expected to provide 80 acre-feet for the 2016-17 year, and local groundwater wells will pump up about 500 acre-feet for the coming year.

Ordinance 94 penalties and water surcharge revenues came in higher than expected for the 2015-16 water year, according to the Montecito Water District. Click to view larger
Ordinance 94 penalties and water surcharge revenues came in higher than expected for the 2015-16 water year, according to the Montecito Water District.  (Montecito Water District photo)

The Montecito water board voted to continue with the Ordinance 94 allocation program for the 2016-17 year, which includes the water surcharge and penalties for customers who use more than their allocation in any given billing period.

As of June, the 2015-16 year brought in $20.4 million in revenues and $3.5 million of that was from Ordinance 94 penalties, according to the district.

During the last water year, 4,264 customers went over their allocations for a total of 190.5 acre-feet. 

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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