MWD Urges Reduced Water Usage
At a Montecito Association Board of Directors meeting earlier this week, Montecito Water District general manager Nick Turner reported that intensifying drought conditions and increased water usage by district customers has prompted a request from the district that all residents reduce their water usage.
“Over the last five years the board has been dedicated to its mission to shore up our water supply and make it more reliable,” Turner said.
The district has set a goal of reducing overall water use by 20%; the board adopted this target at its regular meeting last month after reviewing the Quarterly Water Supply Update and data on current consumption. With most of the district’s water going to outdoor uses, something as simple as most community members adjusting their irrigation settings for fewer minutes or fewer days per week could achieve the goal in short order, Turner said.
Turner showed the Montecito Association Board a presentation that shows that droughts are becoming the norm for California, with conditions worsening last year. The 2020-21 winter is considered the driest on record, ever, and Santa Barbara County proclaimed a local drought emergency in July.
“Statewide, water supplies are certainly in shortage,” Turner said.
The upcoming winter is expected to have below normal precipitation and above normal temperatures, with a possible La Niña occurring in the fall or winter.
Despite the bleak news, Turner said the district’s three-year water supply outlook is favorable, due to actions taken in recent years including storing State Water Project deliveries in the Semitropic Groundwater Banking and Exchange Program, establishing the Montecito Groundwater Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency, and finalizing a 50-year water supply agreement with the city of Santa Barbara secured by its desalination facility, which will supply 35% of the district’s water beginning in January 2022.
“In general, I would say we are better prepared for this drought,” Turner said.
However, with drought conditions now extreme and customer usage trending towards 25% over budget, the district is taking early action to guard against any potential water shortages two or three years down the road.
“Conservation is an important source of supply that also needs to be managed, and this reduction goal is intended to bring customer use in line with demand expectations — voluntarily. We’re really looking to customers to evaluate their properties and figure out something they can do today to reduce water use. Our message is simple: partner with us and water supply should be secure for the long haul,” Turner said, emphasizing the initiative to reduce water usage by 20% is voluntary, not mandatory.
The goal is to avoid projected shortages and extend out available water supply.
During the pandemic, domestic water use has increased in many communities, and MWD, which serves Montecito and Summerland, has seen usage increase in approximately 75% of single-family residences in the past year. The district began increasing messaging on voluntary conservation earlier this year after customer usage spiked in December. Customers are encouraged to review their water usage and compare it with past years, be aware of irrigation schedules, find ways to reduce usage, and to take advantage of a free consultation from MWD’s Conservation Specialist.
In addition to adhering to its own budget, the district will need to comply with state regulations, currently governed by Senate Bill X7-7, to ensure ongoing eligibility for state and federal funding which could be instrumental in supporting costly projects the district is pursuing such as water reuse.
The district announced the 20% reduction goal and sent a list of best practices to reduce water use to customers with the July invoice. Customers needing assistance are encouraged to call (805) 969-2271 to contact the District’s Conservation Specialist. Additional information can be found on the website: www.montecitowater.com.