The Montecito Water District is considering importing recycled water from the Goleta Water District to use on local landscaping, to cut its demand on potable water.

Entering an agreement with Goleta would allow Montecito homeowners to use Title 22 tertiary-treated recycled water produced by the Goleta Sanitary District for landscaping, a proposal discussed by the Montecito water board last week.

“Now that we are going into our sixth year of the drought, recycled water has become more valuable,” Montecito Water District general manager Nick Turner said. “It serves as an alternate water supply when we are limited, and is a reliable source.”

District staff first mentioned the idea last year and presented a plan that focuses on the importance of protecting the district’s portable water system, and limiting MWD’s liability, according to a staff report.

“For every gallon of water we recycle, it’s a gallon of water we are conserving,” Turner said. “We recognize this is a potential plan that can be valuable to our customers.”

Before recycled water can be used and imported, the district would have to enter an interagency agreement with Goleta for trucking the recycled water into the area.

“It’s the district’s responsibility to provide water that meets the water quality requirements and regulations,” Turner said. “The district is responsible for ensuring cross-contamination doesn’t take place.”

The Goleta district also would need to enter into an agreement with the homeowner requesting the recycled water, according to Montecito officials.

Both agreements were reviewed by district staff and legal counsel, and the agreements also establish responsibilities before water can be delivered to the property.

Montecito and Goleta negotiations stalled last year, but Montecito recently sent another proposal and is awaiting a response, according to the district.

In addition, staff has developed a MWD Special User Agreement, between the district and the property owner who is requesting the recycled water.

“This is separate from the other agreements,” Turner said. “It would be similar to the other two agreements, but also include property monitoring costs.”

A recycled water committee was created in May to determine the feasibility of the project, and the committee members have been working with the Montecito Sanitary District, director Richard Shaikewitz said.

“This option is being undertaken with the desire and full support of the Montecito Sanitary District,” he said. “The message I hear is that we should apply this. Even if the customer demand may be minimal.”

Staff is working on the user agreement, and a revised plan is expected to be brought to the board in October.

Before recycled water can be applied within Montecito’s service area, there must be an inspection involving Goleta and Montecito officials, and arborists.

“We would be inspecting the property looking for potential hazards, cross-contamination possibilities and looking at the crops,” Turner said. “It’s an opportunity for both agencies to be on site and catch any issues that might occur.”

In the proposed plan, the Goleta Water District would transport the recycled water to the property in a GWD-owned 200-gallon water tank and the GWD employee would apply the recycled water to the landscape.

“That’s important — this arrangement does not allow the homeowner to handle the water,” Turner said. “It’s bought by GWD and applied by them. There’s no interaction between the property owner and the water.”

GWD’s permit does not allow homeowners to fill storage tanks on their property, he said.

Before arriving on site, GWD staff would calculate the amount of water that would be applied.

“This ensures there’s no excess water being applied or water that can run off the property,” Turner said.

MWD’s possible participation in the hauling program was discussed last year by the operations committee. The committee noted concerns, specifically with cross-contamination and the district’s exposure to liability in allowing a homeowner to use the water.

Goleta started its recycled water program in 1995 and it provides 325 million gallons of recycled water for landscaping annually.

GWD has about 30 recycled water customers, including UC Santa Barbara (90 percent of irrigation at UCSB is recycled), parks, golf courses, and city and county landscaping, Turner said. The district produces 1,000 acre-feet and can expand to 4,000 acre-feet per year.

Santa Barbara’s recycled water program began in 1989 and produces 1,100 acre-feet per year, with the ability to produce 1,400 acre-feet per year.

The Carpinteria Valley Water District is in the process of developing a program and is determining what to implement, Turner said.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.