December 2016 - Santa Barbara Water Commission

HTO was able to attend the monthly meeting of the Santa Barbara Water Commission this morning, and received some great updates on the drought facing Santa Barbara and the future plans for our local water supply. Here's a few topics that were covered during the meeting:

Infrastructure Plans for 2018 and 2019

The city is in the ongoing process of maintaining and repairing its 300 miles of water mains. They are currently switching from the tactic of focusing on the areas with the most breaks to a new prioritized system. This involves looking at the risk/benefit ratio of all of the water mains throughout the city, and determining where to focus efforts. The City has also allocated money for reservoir maintenance, groundwater supply infrastructure, and rehabilitating pump stations critical to Santa Barbara Water Supply.

Water System Master Plan

In 2019, Santa Barbara intends to update its Water System Master Plan, which focuses on water infrastructure uses throughout the City. In the past, the focus has been on fire control. The new goal will be to switch this focus to water quality. The key to water quality, according to water resources manager Joshua Haggmark, is a quick turnover, meaning lower residence time of water in reservoirs. 

Recycled Water Program

The City has allocated $350,000 for the 2018 financial year to upgrade the "flexibility" of its recycled water system and delivery infrastructure. There is also a plan in place to get the current facility up to its designed capacity by summer of 2017. The facility's current output is approximately 1.5 million gallons per day with a goal of 2.5 million gallons per day.

Drought Update

Santa Barbara needs 2.5" of rainfall this year to return to "normal" levels. However, what we need is not "normal", we need massive gains in reservoirs. The NOAA predictions for rainfall remain dire, predicting less than average rainfall between January and March. At the current rate of pumping, groundwater reservoirs will be entirely exhausted within the next four years. Santa Barbara's desalination facility is expected to go online by April 2017. Expansion of the desalination facility's capacity is being explored, however the City continues to hit road blocks in receiving funding from the State. Knowing the severity of the drought and the likelihood that it will continue, the City has planned its water resources out to 2019 in the case of continued drought. 

The future is uncertain for Santa Barbara's climate and rainfall, but the City is doing a fantastic job of planning for all possible scenarios.