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Local News

Santa Barbara Residents Continue to Conserve Water Amid Drought Conditions

Continuing Santa Barbara’s successful water conservation, especially during the peak-use summer season, is a top priority, city officials said.

An update on water conservation efforts, current drought conditions and drought-response projects was reviewed by the Santa Barbara City Council this week.

Since the Stage Three Drought Declaration, a citywide 35-percent water use reduction was required to ensure the community has secured supplies for 2016.

Water conservation numbers for April show a 41-percent reduction in city water usage compared to 2013 levels, according to Joshua Haggmark, water resources manager.

“Certainly we are at the epicenter of this drought right now,” Haggmark said.

“(Water conservation) continues to be something this community can be proud of. People have found ways to conserve in their own way and it has been extremely helpful. At this point we haven't identified a shortage.”

Surface water supplies have dropped and been replaced with supplemental water and increased groundwater production. Northern California’s average rainfall also helped with a healthy reserve of water in the San Luis Reservoir this year.

Haggmark said these strategies have been successful to meet 2016 demand.

Followed by a fifth consecutive year of drought, the city received about 60 percent of normal rainfall and in the backcountry where runoff feeds Lake Cachuma and Gibraltar received closer to 50 percent of normal, Haggmark said. 

“We ended the year just above half of normal (rainfall), which was certainly a far cry from where we had hoped to end,” Haggmark said.

Reactivating the desalination plant is on track to be finished by October, despite numerous planning concerns, he told the City Council.

For summer demands from recycled water customers, the city works towards producing 1.5 million of gallons of water per day, according to Haggmark.

If this goal can’t be achieved, officials may request recycled water customers to voluntarily cut back on water use by up to 35 percent in July, August and September. 

“We can’t store recycled water,” Haggmark said. “We have reservoirs, but they are relatively small.”

He added that new development projects and buildings are required to have the latest in water conservation fixtures, which are more energy-efficient and use less water. 

“Over the next 20 years we anticipate our water usage will be less than what it was going into this drought,” Haggmark said.

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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