Wednesday, November 14 , 2018, 5:00 pm | Fair 70º

 
 
 
 

Santa Barbara Council Raises City’s Water Conservation Target to 35 Percent

Officials say the new goal will help secure the city’s water resources through 2018

The Santa Barbara City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to increase the city’s water conservation target from 25 percent to 35 percent.

“This is matching the current community conservation efforts,” said Joshua Haggmark, the city’s water resources manager. “This isn’t asking really for more; this is asking for more of the same.”

In his update to the council, Haggmark said the new 35 percent reduction goal, when combined with supplemental water purchases and the planned opening of a desalination plant this fall, will ensure the city will have “adequate” water supplies through 2018.

The new target was made as an amendment to the council’s previous Stage 3 drought declaration.

In February 2014, a Stage 1 drought was declared by the City Council, which raised it to Stage 2 three months later. Last May, it declared a Stage 3 drought, which triggered a water conservation target of 25 percent and new water-use regulations, such as requiring automatic shut-off nozzles on hoses and a ban on irrigation “within 48 hours after measurable rainfall.”

The community’s proficiency at saving water was credited with the council and city staff’s confidence in raising the target. Santa Barbara residents saved more than the city’s 20 percent conservation request while the drought was labeled Stage 1 and Stage 2, and has averaged 34 percent since the declaration of a Stage 3 drought prompted the mandatory 25 percent reduction goal.

City staff determined that in March the city saw a 40 percent reduction in water use.

“This just speaks volumes, I think, to where this community’s mindset has been about conservation and taking responsibility,” Haggmark said.

“The public has done a fabulous job absent punitive measures,” Councilman Randy Rowse said.

The important step now, he and Haggmark agreed, was to ensure that the public knew that the new conservation target was not asking more of the public, but simply for more of the same.

With the drought in its fifth year, the city has had to embrace a variety of avenues for either making its water last or acquiring more of it. In addition to the rising conservation targets, the city is increasing its groundwater production and purchasing supplemental water, and it plans to reactivate its desalination plant this fall, which will convert 3 million gallons of seawater a day into potable water.

In July, the council unanimously approved the plant’s revival, which will total $55 million in capital costs to reactivate and will produce roughly 30 percent of Santa Barbara’s water supply, according to the city.

One source of supplemental water is the Antelope Valley-East Kern Water Agency, from which the city has bought a year’s worth of water. Per state regulations, Haggmark said, the city would have to eventually pay back an acre-foot of water for every two it receives from the AVEK.

With its water resources for the next 2½ years coming together, the council declined to adopt any new water-use restrictions, which would normally be triggered by shortages or interruptions to supply.

One issue of concern, however, were the water needs of planned and proposed development projects such as apartment complexes or commercial buildings. If all these projects are completed, they would add 40 acre-feet per year to the city’s water demand, according to city project planner Allison DeBusk, adding that the extra demand would be a normal amount given the last decade’s trend.

Though the council did not adopt any new regulations, potential restrictions to mitigate the extra demand include deferral of landscaping, suspension of permits for new swimming pools and suspension of all future permits for projects that would increase the city’s water demand.

As of Monday, Santa Barbara has received 67 percent of the average amount of rainfall it should have at this point in the water year, which runs from Sept. 1 through Aug. 31, according to data from the county’s Public Works Department. Cachuma Lake, which provides a considerable portion of the water for the greater Santa Barbara area, is down to 14.7 percent capacity, according to the data.​

Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman 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.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Email
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership
×

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]awk.com. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.