Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.
This week’s question: Why is Lake Cachuma not getting any more State Water, given the record snowpack? Is this water just going to the ocean?
— Dan Wagner, Noleta
The Central Coast Water Authority is in charge of distributing and treating State Water Project deliveries for Santa Barbara County, including the water pipeline system that goes into Lake Cachuma.
“We are continuing to get State Water to Lake Cachuma,” CCWA Executive Director Ray Stokes said. “We are pumping as much as we can to the lake.”
The CCWA pipeline can pump a maximum of 38- to 40 acre-feet of water per day into Lake Cachuma, Stokes said.
Before the winter rains, Lake Cachuma’s water storage dropped to 7-percent of capacity, so South Coast water agencies relied heavily on the State Water Project (which had lower allocations due to the ongoing drought) and purchased water deliveries from the CCWA pipeline system.
Then the rain and snow hit.
Above-average snowpack in northern California resulted in an 85-percent allocation of State Water (increased in April from 60 percent) for local water agencies.
This year, water districts north of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta are getting 100 percent of their State Water Project allocation, according to Santa Barbara County Water Agency Manager Fray Crease.
Crease said it’s rare — except for extremely wet winters — for the state to allocate the full 100 percent.
For local districts, the allocation was 60 percent in 2016, 20 percent in 2015 and down to just 5 percent in 2014.
The state determines the allocation amount each year, and most State Water contractors are getting 85 percent of their allocations this year, Crease said.
Noozhawk reader and Noleta resident Dan Wagner submitted the question, saying he frequently tracks daily operations at Lake Cachuma and at some point saw the State Water Project amounts hit zero.
“When it went to zero, and I was curious,” Wagner said. “I have always been interested in California water, and my father said ‘history follows the water.’”
Stokes said the State Water Project deliveries could have appeared as a zero during the CCWA project to reinstall a bypass pipeline to pump water into the lake, which was finished in April.
Not just Northern California got soaked this winter, and the above-average rainfall in Santa Barbara County in February boosted Lake Cachuma to 50 percent of capacity.
The city of Santa Barbara and other Cachuma Project Member Units have been given a 40-percent allocation of Lake Cachuma water through September 2017.
Track daily operations at Lake Cachuma by clicking here. Track Santa Barbara County rainfall and reservoir levels here.
— Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.