Thursday, August 16 , 2018, 5:33 pm | Fair 77º


Local News

Montecito Water District Close to Desalination Water Purchase Agreement With Santa Barbara

The Montecito Water District and city of Santa Barbara are close to a draft agreement on the terms of a water-purchase deal, with Santa Barbara selling supplemental water to the special district.

Santa Barbara Water Resources Manager Joshua Haggmark said on Friday that he anticipates "wrapping up negotiations on the majority of the draft terms in the next couple weeks.”

Haggmark added that the two water agencies are still working on draft terms and a complete agreement is anticipated in several months.

Then, each agency will be taking it back to its elected board for a public discussion, he said.

The year length of the agreement is still being negotiated, Haggmark said. 

Haggmark said it is still unknown if the deal will cause the city to increase the capacity of its desalination facility, which is still under construction for the original capacity of 3,125 acre feet per year.

Montecito Water District general manager Nick Turner said told his board of directors on Tuesday that he believes the proposal terms “are favorable for the district.”

Montecito plans to buy 1,250 acre-feet each year, and staff noted the proposal is costly and would require a long-term agreement.

Turner said he anticipates coming back to the board for approval at the next meeting.

Once the Charles E. Meyer Desalination Plant starts producing potable water in late winter or early spring, it is anticipated to produce nearly 3 million gallons per day.

The seawater-to-potable water plant was expected to finish construction in October 2016 and start supplying water to the city's distribution system, but the project hit delays including the discovery of contaminated soils at the site and electrical transmission pieces requiring replacement, according to city officials

Montecito Water District board members also discussed the issue of plentiful rainfall putting Montecito’s carryover water stored in San Luis Reservoir in jeopardy. 

Many South Coast agencies have carryover water stored in that Merced County reservoir but under state and federal rules, that water would vanish from the books and be designated as 2017 aqueduct supply if the reservoir fills to the brim — which it is expected to, and soon. 

“Imminent,” was the word Turner used to describe the likelihood of the water spilling. The district has about 8,000 acre feet of carryover water stored there. 

The reservoir was at 74 percent capacity as of Thursday, while the reservoir was sitting at a less than 10 percent chance of Montecito's carryover water spilling in late December, Turner said.

The Montecito Water District Board of Directors on Tuesday discussed the protection of supplemental water supplies stored there.

“Things are changing day-to-day, but we need to discuss this, map out a plan and decide,” Board President Richard Shaikewitz said. “It is an artificial spill.”

If a spill occurs, it is likely that additional supplemental water will be needed to meet the district’s current demand projected for 2017, according to staff. 

“I don’t see it spilling, but I can be proven wrong,” Board Member Sam Frye said.

The district is considering groundwater banking and other long-term water supply opportunities. 

“We have been looking into any and all possibilities to save that water,” Turner said. 

One option is purchasing supplemental water with the intent of banking it in a groundwater bank managed by the Irvine Ranch Water District in Kern County or Antelope Valley-East Kern Water Agency

Another proposal was an arrangement with the Semitropic Water Storage District, a water storage district in Kern County.

More winter storms hit the state Friday and into the weekend, according to the National Weather Service

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland 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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