The Goleta Water District has updated its recycled water permitting so it can now sell to agricultural customers, although not many of them are interested in buying. Recycled water, which the district has produced and sold since 1997, cannot be used for groundwater recharge, but was used for landscape irrigation, construction dust control, industrial cooling, and toilet and urinal flushing. State law has allowed more uses in the intervening years, and with a modernized permit, the district can now sell recycled water for agricultural irrigation and industrial and manufacturing uses, said Ryan Drake, the district’s water supply and conservation manager.
Water. It’s perhaps the biggest issue in the American West. It has inflamed passions and driven ambitious projects for the past century.
Now an economist at UCSB has investigated how we might be able to mitigate the stress of droughts by changing the incentives for water storage and use. The results appear in the journal Nature Sustainability.
Humans use water for a variety of different ends, but rivers also need water flowing through them to ensure the survival of fish and other wildlife. In fact, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) requires a minimum stream flow in certain rivers to protect threatened fish.
South Coast agencies purchased more than 27,000 acre-feet of supplemental water during four drought years to make up for lowered allocations from Lake Cachuma and the State Water Project, and for most of those deals, payback includes water in addition to money. Agencies’ so-called “water debt” means that when the city of Santa Barbara purchased from the Mojave Water Agency last year, for example, it was committing to paying back 1 acre-foot of water for every 4 acre-feet it purchased.
Local water agencies say both of these things are true: The drought is over for most of California, and southern Santa Barbara County has water shortages. Office of Emergency Management Director Robert Lewin recommended that the county Board of Supervisors terminate its proclamation of a local emergency due to drought conditions, which has been renewed every 60 days since January 2014. The drought emergency relates to climate conditions, and public peril and safety, and this winter’s rainfall amounts and snowpack indicate that the drought is over, he said at Tuesday’s supervisors meeting.
Recycled water may be on its way to Montecito. The Montecito Water District’s long-range plans set goals of having 85-percent of its supplies come from “local, reliable, drought-proof” sources by 2025, including desalination, groundwater banking, and recycled water. It depends heavily on surface water now, from the State Water Project, Lake Cachuma, and to a lesser extent its Jameson Reservoir. Lowered allocations during the drought have caused MWD to purchase supplemental water from outside the region.