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Local News

Montecito Water District Board Votes to Continue Water Availability Charge

The Montecito Water District Board of Directors voted to continue the water availability charge on all properties within the service boundary at Tuesday’s meeting, saying the charge is needed to maintain a reliable water system.

Since the per-parcel cost was initiated over 20 years ago, the amount has not increased, district general counsel Robert Cohen said.

The district collects approximately $300,000 annually from the charge and it is collected once a year along with property taxes. 

All water availability charge proceeds are used to fund water system replacement programs and ongoing project costs.

In 1996, the program approved 39 projects at an estimated cost of $5.1 million. After implementing the charge, the district has collected about $5.9 million per year.

“The charge provides funding for the cost of replacing certain infrastructure and enhancing the reliability of the district’s water distribution systems, which enhances the value of all properties within the district,” according to a district staff report.

According to a document released by the board, one of the program’s goals is to reduce the percentage of 1920s pipelines within the district.  

Water district staff reported a decline in water main breaks following a number of pipeline replacements between 1997-2008. However, break frequency has increased in the last couple of years which may be attributed to soil conditions and the drought, they said. 

There were 28 water main breaks on pipelines during the 2015-2016 year — 22 of which were on pre-1930s pipelines, according to district numbers.

The reported number of main breaks per year had ranged between five breaks in 2010 and 23 in 2014. For the 2015 calendar year, main breaks totaled 22.

Montecito Water District plans to target aging pipelines that are more than 91 years of service with a five-year water main replacement program. This replacement schedule will address more than 23 miles of 1920s-era pipelines with an annual cost exceeding $1 million, according to staff.

Specifics of the water availability charge include the following: 

  • For all parcels, $30 per acre or part thereof less than a full acre for the first 5 acres.
  • For parcels greater than 5 acres in size, $25 per acre or part thereof less than a full acre for the portion of the parcel between 5 and 10 acres.
  • For parcels greater than 10 acres in size, $20 per acre or part thereof less than a full acre for the portion of the parcel between 10 and 20 acres.
  • For parcels greater than 20 acres in size, $5 per acre or part thereof less than a full acre for the portion of the parcel in excess of 20 acres.
  • For parcels owned by the Santa Barbara County Flood Control District, (“Flood Control”) there shall be no charge so long as such parcels are held and used by Flood Control solely for the purpose of flood ways and/or flood control debris basins.

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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