Montecito water district sign
The Montecito Water District Board of Directors also serves as the governing board for the Groundwater Sustainability Agency, which manages the local basin. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk file photo)

The groundwater levels within Montecito’s basin are still recovering from California’s recent drought, according to the Montecito Water District.

The district’s spring groundwater monitoring program, using 55 public and private wells, found that the levels rose 3-to-18 feet in each storage area of the basin since last year.

That’s progress, but it is still far below historic wet weather levels, groundwater specialist Nick Kunstek said. The six-year statewide drought was declared over in 2017, although conditions lingered in Santa Barbara County.

The district’s Board of Directors also serves as governing board of the Groundwater Sustainability Agency, which is tasked with a management plan for the Montecito basin.

On Tuesday, the board passed a budget for the next fiscal year, including plans to build two groundwater monitoring wells and start a private well metering pilot program.

Funding comes from state Department of Water Resources grants, the water district and a per-acre fee for properties overlying the Montecito Groundwater Basin.

The water district pumps 100 to 600 acre-feet of groundwater from the basin each year, but it does not know how much water is pumped out by private wells, a staff report noted.

“There are hundreds of private wells with no metering or reporting requirements in place to mandate that the information be tracked,” the report said. “The district has been able to obtain water level information on a voluntary basis from private wells to keep track of the overall basin water levels.”

Montecito has a “medium priority” basin under the state Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which requires local agencies to regulate groundwater as a water supply.

The groundwater metering program is a high priority for the Groundwater Sustainability Agency, to get information on the number of private wells and the amount of water pumped from Montecito’s basin.

The pilot program is expected to start next summer or fall.

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