Rock with a sign at the Goleta Water District office.
The Goleta Water District has updated its recycled water permitting so it can now sell to agricultural customers, although not many of them are interested in buying. (Tom Bolton / Noozhawk photo)

The Goleta Water District has updated its recycled water permitting so it can now sell to agricultural customers, although not many of them are interested in buying.

Recycled water, which the district has produced and sold since 1997, cannot be used for groundwater recharge, but was used for landscape irrigation, construction dust control, industrial cooling, and toilet and urinal flushing.

State law has allowed more uses in the intervening years, and with a modernized permit, the district can now sell recycled water for agricultural irrigation and industrial and manufacturing uses, said Ryan Drake, the district’s water supply and conservation manager.

“What really drove it is we were looking at a few properties that wanted to use recycled water for ag irrigation,” he said.

Even though California allows it now, the 1990s permit did not, so enrolling in the modern permit covers those uses, he added.

Drake said the district does not expect the change to drive any increase in recycled water use. Most agricultural customers approached indicated they did not want the water, saying it’s too high in salt or dissolved solids to use on lemons and avocados, major crops in the Goleta Valley.

The Goleta Water District sells about 1 million gallons of recycled water per day to 30 customers in the Goleta Valley, which is only a third of the recycled water produced by the Goleta Sanitary District treatment plant.

In addition to the “purple pipe” recycled water hookups, Goleta started recycled water hauling, by truck, to Goleta Valley and Montecito-area customers in 2015.

The Montecito water and sanitary districts are considering their own recycled water program, although it’s slow going. The sanitary district will soon start a pilot program producing recycled water for on-site landscaping, and possibly serve part of the neighboring Santa Barbara Cemetery.

Voluntary Conservation

The Goleta Water District has enough water supplies to serve customer demand for the next two years, and the Board of Directors on Tuesday ended the Stage One Water Shortage Emergency.

Conservation is now voluntary, with no more water-use restrictions.

Demand will increase with summer weather and the end of mandatory water-use restrictions, but many customers have been proactive to permanently reduce their water use, according to the district.

“We’ve seen a lot slower demand recovery than in past years, so I think people have really continued to conserve this year even though the drought conditions have improved,” Drake said.

The district still is not allowing new water allocations, since the SAFE Ordinance requires contributions to the Drought Buffer to start allowing new connections.

Due to the drought, no new connections have been approved by the district since October 2014, except for projects that had already paid the new water supply charge, or ones with historical water credits in which the new project will use the same or less water.

While the groundwater basin level hasn’t dipped to historic lows, it will take a few years to recover to pre-drought levels, Drake said. Pumping was reduced in 2017 once the area got some rain, and the basin has already shown some recharge, he added.

“The fact that it could go through two droughts and still have a basin in pretty good shape is good proof adjudication works,” Drake said.

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.