Montecito Water Board meeting
Consultant Tim Thompson told the Montecito Water District Board of Directors that groundwater augmentation is marginally feasible in the local basin.  (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

There are limited opportunities for groundwater augmentation in the Montecito basin, consultants told the Montecito Water District board of directors on Tuesday.

GSI Water Solutions and Geosyntec studied indirect potable reuse feasibility in the district, which involves treating wastewater to a potable standard and injecting it into the groundwater basin.

Tim Thompson of GSI talked about the hydrology of the Montecito basin and specific storage areas studied for potential indirect potable reuse injection wells.

There is marginal feasibility in two areas, Storage Unit 1 and Storage Unit 3, each with the possibility of producing 70-80 acre-feet of water per year, Thompson said.

Injection wells would likely cost $500,000 to $1 million each, he said. 

The basin tends to fill during wet periods, leaving little opportunity for injection except for drought years, he said. While the district could pump additional water out of the basin to artificially lower the levels for more injection, there is a risk of seawater intrusion in coastal areas, he added.

There’s also a risk that injected water would be lost to non-district pumpers, given the hundreds of private wells within the district, Thompson said.

There is no comprehensive database of all the active wells, or how much they pump, and gathering more data about private wells is an issue the Montecito Groundwater Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency is discussing.

Consultants created a database of 354 wells as part of the feasibility study, including 22 district wells, 79 private wells in Santa Barbara County records (mostly parcels near the focus areas of the study), and 253 private wells from state Department of Water Resources records.

The total number in the Montecito area is probably closer to 1,500, consultants said, but that’s just an estimate.

The district is studying indirect potable reuse as part of its larger consideration of recycled water projects. It’s partnering with the Montecito Sanitary District on a non-potable reuse irrigation pilot project for the Santa Barbara Cemetery.

Water board members did not take any action on the consultant report Tuesday.

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