Santa Barbara is now delivering recycled water to La Cumbre Country Club in Hope Ranch, which is the largest water user in the area.
The city signed a 25-year deal to provide surplus recycled water to La Cumbre Mutual Water Co., the water provider for the unincorporated area of Hope Ranch including the country club, Laguna Blanca School and large residential properties.
The city and Hope Ranch share a groundwater basin, so reducing the amount of groundwater pumped for irrigation will help supplies for potable water, according to Joshua Haggmark, Santa Barbara’s water resources manager.
The Santa Barbara City Council approved the 25-year water sales agreement in February 2021, and deliveries started March 1 of this year. The yearly deliveries will be between 40 and 100 acre-feet, and La Cumbre Mutual Water Co. will pay an estimated annual cost of $156,000 to $288,000 to start depending on the amount of water.
The city’s recycled water plant can produce up to 2.5 million gallons per day, and peak demand in the summer is about 2 MGD, according to the city.
“Additionally, the ability to use the recycled water plant’s full production capacity will lead to a recycled water unit cost for city customers that would otherwise be higher without this agreement in place. This reduction in unit cost further incentivizes the use of recycled water as an alternative to the city’s limited potable water supplies,” Santa Barbara officials wrote in the water sales agreement documents.
The City Council has been discussing a recycled water sales agreement with La Cumbre Mutual Water Co. since 2016.
Santa Barbara also sells potable water supplies to the Montecito Water District, a $33 million, 50-year deal that was negotiated after the city reactivated its desalination plant.
Deliveries started Jan. 1, and they cover about 35% of the Montecito Water District’s annual water demand.
The Montecito water and sanitary districts do not produce or distribute recycled water but have discussed building a plant to supply it to top water users, including golf courses, the cemetery and hotels.
The Montecito Sanitary District built a pilot recycled water plant on its headquarters several years ago and proposed supplying the Santa Barbara Cemetery with water — which is across the street — while they studied a larger-scale project.
The plant was placed in standby mode in June 2021, and the sanitary district board voted in February to restart it and gather more data for its ongoing recycled water feasibility study.