Nick Turner, General Manager of the Montecito Water District, gave a presentation to the Montecito Association Board of Directors meeting on Tuesday, in advance of next week’s special MWD Board Meeting (June 15) to discuss the District’s proposed Water Supply Agreement with the City of Santa Barbara and Rate Study, and a Public Hearing on June 25 to consider adopting a rate increase.
Turner explained that MWD’s long-term water supply availability is expected to decrease 35-40%, prompting the District to consider entering into a 50-year Water Supply Agreement with the City of Santa Barbara. “The District’s water supplies were insufficient during the recent historic drought, and we had no option but to rely heavily on supplemental water, which was inadequate,” Turner explained, adding that customer conservation, while significant, is not enough. He said a recent analysis done earlier this year confirm that future water shortages will exist if the past management of relying on supplemental water purchases continues, as climate change, change in regulations, and rising costs come into play. The analysis surmises that an agreement with the City of Santa Barbara is the preferred solution.
According to the District, the new water supply agreement would guarantee supply at a predictable cost, as the agreement would dramatically reduce the need to purchase expensive and unreliable supplemental water. It would provide local, reliable water for 40% of the District’s supply, and potentially allow the District to bank water in non-drought cycles, creating an opportunity to increase revenue and decrease cost for customers.
The agreement would source water from the City from any potable water source, including the desal plant, which would be required to be kept in a ready-to-produce state. “The desal plant is central to this agreement. This is not a partnership where the MWD has any ownership of the plant,” Turner clarified.
The agreement requires a 2.8% revenue increase, which is driving the proposed rate increase for MWD customers. According to Turner, 56% of 4,600 service connections in the District will experience a decrease or no change in their monthly water bill, and 17% will increase less than $20 per month. The District’s tiered rate structure would change, and customers can visit www.montecitowater.com to access a calculator to see how their monthly rate will change. If approved, the rate increase would go into effect on July 1; the Water Supply Agreement would provide water to Montecito Water District beginning on January 1, 2022.
The MA’s Board of Directors asked numerous questions about the agreement and the rate increase, with several members voicing concern over the length of the agreement, the District’s future water needs related to groundwater sustainability, recycled water potential, terms of the agreement in the future, and more. For more information about the Water Supply Agreement and rate changes, visit www.montecitowater.com.
During Community Reports, Dr. Amy Alzina from Cold Spring School District reported that the school was able to hold a 6th Grade Promotion Ceremony on campus, using social distancing protocols. Twenty 6th grade students graduated from Cold Spring School this year. Santa Barbara County is expected to release new guidelines on reopening schools in the fall. “We feel like we can meet those health and safety guidelines, and get kids back on campus,” Dr. Alzina said, adding that the school will need to dip into reserves to meet the new guidelines, which include social distancing in classrooms and during recesses.
Dr. Alzina also reported that the School Board voted earlier this week to move forward with a $7.8M bond measure in November, in order to replace the two remaining portable classrooms on campus – which are rusting and deteriorating rapidly – and replace them with a permanent building that will house classrooms and administrative offices.
Montecito Fire Chief Kevin Taylor reported that with increasing temperatures and windy conditions, a red flag warning went into effect earlier this week. Montecito Firefighters continue to be out and about in the community with defensible space inspections beginning next week. Chief Taylor said that there is plenty of fuel to burn on our hillsides, as the Thomas Fire burn scar has grown back at a phenomenal rate. “Unfortunately there is plenty of material to burn,” he said, adding that the flip side of the regrowth is a reduction in the risk of debris flow.
The next Montecito Association Board of Directors meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, July 14. For more information visit www.montecitoassociation.org.