- What is the status of our water supplies?
- Lake Cachuma: The federally-owned reservoir is currently 80% full, but it is a shared resource with stored water belonging to other agencies, including downstream water rights.
- Gibraltar Reservoir: This smaller reservoir is owned by the City and is currently full. Use of water from the reservoir has been limited due to water quality concerns as a result of the Thomas Fire.
- Groundwater: The City relies on groundwater during droughts when surface water supplies are limited. In 2016, the City’s groundwater basins reached historically low levels similar to 1992 (the last major drought). The City has been resting the groundwater basins to let them recover; however, it could take 5-10 years before the basins are completely replenished.
- State Water: The 2019 allocation from the State is currently 70% of the maximum annual amount. During the drought, the City contracted for supplemental water exchanges, via the State Water Project, from other water agencies outside the area. These exchanges were necessary to maintain State Water deliveries during the drought, but the agreements require that some water be returned over a 10-year period. The City’s current water debt is equivalent to one-third of the City’s annual water demands, and the City plans to return the water in the next few years.
- Desalination: The City’s desalination plant has been operating since summer 2017, providing nearly one-third of the City’s current water demands. The desalination plant has played a key role in improving reliability and resiliency during the drought, and it will continue to play this role by allowing us to rest our groundwater basins and recover from the drought.
- Recycled Water: The City’s recycled water plant has been meeting the majority of recycled water customer demands since construction upgrades completed in November 2015.
- What are the drought stages?
There are 3 drought stages: Stage 1 is to alert the public that a potential serious water shortage may occur if dry weather continues and water demands remain high. Stage 2 reflects that a serious water shortage is expected in the current or impending year, and includes drought based water rates and mandatory water use restrictions. Stage 3 is triggered by an extreme water shortage which includes more aggressive mandatory restrictions. The City maintains a Water Shortage Contingency Plan which was most recently updated with the 2011 Water Supply Plan. It plans for “extraordinary” water conservation measures, above and beyond normal water conservation actions, during water shortages.
- If the drought is over, why haven't my water rates gone down?
The City experienced significant increases in costs during the drought to provide reliable water sources and ensure public health and safety needs were met. The water rate study conducted in 2017, which informed water rates for Aug 2017–June 2020, assumed that the drought would come to an end within that period. Therefore, the current rates, and the rates that will become effective this July, already reflect a gradual recovery from the drought costs. While the majority of costs to operate and maintain the overall water system are fixed costs, the City’s water rates are structured to encourage conservation, and reduced water usage results in a lower water bill. The City will be reassessing water rates for July 2020 with a new rate study starting this summer.
Below is a comparison of average water bills for low, medium, and high residential water users for neighboring water providers.
- Does the City currently have a target for customers to reduce water use?
The City needs to reduce our normal water demand (2013, pre-drought) by 15% with extraordinary water conservation measures. Any water saved now can help prevent more severe actions needed in the future as drought conditions continue. We are urging that each customer (residential, business, commercial, etc.) evaluate their water use and see where they can conserve. The City’s Water Conservation Program is here to help everyone save water; to get help evaluating water use and conservation opportunities, get a free water checkup.
- Are there restrictions on how water can be used?
Yes. The Stage Three Drought Regulations were rescinded on April 9, 2019, however, water waste is prohibited at all times. Wasting water is defined as any excessive, unnecessary or unwarranted use of water, including, but not limited to, any use or method of use that causes significant runoff beyond the boundaries of property served by a meter; failure to repair any leak or rupture in any water pipes, faucets, valves, plumbing fixtures or other water service appliances within 72 hours after notice by the City; and irrigation during and for a period of 48 hours after a measurable rainfall event (a measurable rainfall event means, rainfall of one-quarter inch or more during a 24 hour period).
To report water waste in the City please click here.
- Are there programs to help me replace my lawn with water wise landscaping?
The City’s Water Conservation Program has many programs and resources to help you save water in your garden. Please visit our Conservation Homepage or call our Conservation Hotline at (805) 564-5460 for more information on free Water Checkup appointments, rebates, classes, hands-on workshops, water wise plants, and more.
- How can I save my trees that were stressed during the drought?
The City has informational resources available to help our community water trees. For specific tree watering information, signs of drought stress, FAQs, and more can be found at www.SantaBarbaraCA.gov/TreeWatering.
- What portion of our water supply comes from the desalination plant?
The desalination facility provides 30 percent of Santa Barbara’s water supply. The desal plant is one part of the City’s diverse water supply portfolio, which includes surface water from Cachuma and Gibraltar reservoirs, groundwater, State water, purchased water, recycled water, and conservation.
- Why don’t we put a moratorium on new development?
The City’s Long Term Water Supply Plan (LTWSP) includes the projected demand from development anticipated under the City’s updated General Plan. This is a minimal amount because new projects represent a small portion of overall water usage, are built to the latest efficiency standards for landscaping and plumbing fixtures, and much of the water demand for the new project is offset by water usage of the existing development. The City has planned for an additional water demand of 40 acre feet per year from new development in the General Plan and the Long-Term Water Supply Plan. Historical demand from new development is 27 acre feet per year, which is approximately 0.3 percent of current demand. For more information on water usage and development click here.
- How much water does a typical household use every month?
Pre-drought, the average single family residence used approximately 13 hundred cubic feet (HCF) per month (9,700 gallons). Currently, average single family residence usage is 9 HCF per month. In multi-unit residential buildings, the average usage pre-drought was approximately 5 HCF (3,700 gallons) per month per dwelling unit. Currently, average multi-unit usage is 4 HCF per month per dwelling unit. Learn more about historical water usage.
- How much does our water supply cost?
The cost of the City's water supply can vary from year to year, for more information on cost of water service and supply from 2016-2020, view our rate memo.
Last Updated: Apr 9, 2019