Drought in Santa Barbara County Enters Sixth Year

The recent winter storms resulted in a welcome capture of rain needed for replenishing reservoirs, creeks, rivers and groundwater supplies in Santa Barbara County. However, it was a drop in the bucket. To demonstrate, Cachuma Lake would need 55 inches of rain to fall in a short amount of time to lift us out of emergency drought conditions

Northern California has fared better from this winter’s storms, so as California emerges from a record-breaking drought, Santa Barbara County remains one of only two counties still experiencing exceptional drought. We are in the middle of the wet season, which typically runs from October through March, but there’s no guarantee that Mother Nature will cooperate. In 2015, officials were prepared for an El Niño wet season that didn’t materialize. Since October 2016 through January 24, 2017, however, we received more than 13 inches of rain, or 171 percent of normal. And yet, we remain in a drought.

In Northern California, recent rains sent rivers over their banks, filled reservoirs and reduced or eliminated the severity of the drought for 98 percent of the state. Locally, Cachuma Lake rose a few feet but still sits at only 11 percent of capacity, and groundwater basins throughout the county are showing signs of stress. The severe drought conditions that persist in the county continue to threaten our region’s ability to maintain public health and safety for residents as we enter the sixth year of exceptional drought.

Although water providers across the county have done much to diversify and secure their water supply sources over the past 30 years, this drought has made clear the need to further develop drought resilient local water sources, while simultaneously enhancing and securing existing supply sources and infrastructure. To this end, water agencies from across the county have been meeting together and with state water officials to develop a unified regional plan to improve the ability of Santa Barbara County to get through the current, ongoing drought emergency, and proactively plan for the next drought.

In December 2015, the County’s Water Resources Division completed the Long Term Water Supply Alternatives Report, a study of local water supply options available now and into the future. To read the executive summary, go to http://bit.ly/2jkvdvG.

What Can You Do?
While new, expanded, and rebuilt water programs and infrastructure projects are under consideration, we can all continue to conserve water, integrate water use efficiencies and be water wise. To learn more about the many actions each of us can take to reduce water use during these extraordinarily dry times, go to www.WaterWiseSB.org. While not all actions apply to everyone, learn some of the most common things you can do to save water.

You can also learn more about where your water comes from. Residents in Goleta are served by Goleta Water District. Learn more at www.goletawater.com. Thank you for doing your part to protect our local supplies.

Information provided courtesy of the County of Santa Barbara.