Thirsty Montecitans Trucking in Water During Drought

Cutbacks Surpass Goal, but Overconsumption Penalties Reach $1.9 Million

Thursday, August 28, 2014
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Montecito Water District executive Tom Mosby has been forced to seek refuge from the ongoing drought in grim humor. “If it rains this winter, we won’t have any water sales,” he observed. “If it doesn’t rain, we won’t have any water to sell.” In the meantime, Montecito’s notoriously profligate water customers dramatically reduced their usage this July, compared to the previous year, by 48 percent. Although final numbers are not in, it appears they’ve done the same for August. The target had been to cut back by 30 percent. There has been some resistance, however, and Mosby said three customers have been hit with fines of $25,000 for using more than their rationed allotment. The district has imposed $1.9 million in penalties since adopting its rationing program. In addition, many have gotten so far behind on their payments that they risk imminent cutoff.

According to freelance reporter Melinda Burns, 50 customers face cutoff by the end of this week if payments aren’t made. That’s the most ever. Other customers with a history of water-consumption issues, like Oprah Winfrey, have reined back use to within their rationing allotments. But Winfrey, like many others with large acreage, has trucked in water to keep some plants alive. Mosby can only speculate where the trucked water comes from ​— ​private wells from Carpinteria or Goleta ​— ​commenting, “That’s something we absolutely don’t support.” The back roads of Carpinteria, in particular Cravens Lane, are packed with water trucks hauling H2O pumped from wells north of Foothill.

Montecito is unique in the affluence of its ratepayers and the almost total lack of a groundwater basin into which to drill. As a result, sentiment is growing that the district pursue the development of a desalination plant. To that end, the district approved spending no more than $50,000 on a private consultant to get a road map of what’s possible where desalination is concerned. New plants are notoriously expensive and even more difficult to get permitted. Theoretically, it makes more sense for Montecito to hitch its wagon to Santa Barbara, but that poses bureaucratically dangerous risks of its own. Santa Barbara’s application to restart its desal plant is predicated upon the assumption that it would be used only as an emergency water supply. Mosby said the consultant should report back to the board sometime in October. In the meantime, he’s hoping state regulatory agencies realize it would be better for the South Coast to have one desal plant ​— ​not two ​— ​and respond with the appropriate flexibility.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

SB residents who lived through the last drought aren't taking conservation seriously. We learned that the drought is used for leverage to make room for sales of more water meters and exploitation by means of such schemes as the state water project, which cost hundreds of millions but provides no water when we need it.

Such divisive politics has taught residents that it is in their personal interest to continue overconsumption as long as there is still water available. It's a kind of brinksmanship learned from past experience.

random_kook (anonymous profile)
August 28, 2014 at 8 a.m. (Suggest removal)

It's important to discover where the trucks that distribute water, are getting that water. Our entire State is in drought so its foolhardy to purchase water anywhere to provide green lawns, irrespective of how rich one is.

drdan93109 (anonymous profile)
August 28, 2014 at 11:32 a.m. (Suggest removal)

drdan93109, I don't think you understand, people of great wealth aren't subject to the same rules as the proletariat. Good heavens no!

Indyholio (anonymous profile)
August 28, 2014 at 4:52 p.m. (Suggest removal)

And the Queen said - "Let them eat grass."

geeber (anonymous profile)
August 28, 2014 at 6:52 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The best and perhaps cheapest solution is indirect potable reuse. Take sewage, clean with reverse osmosis , and then pump up to Jameson, where it will be aged and blended with the water there, and then pumped back down for use. It is easier to remove the "stuff" from sewage than the salt from the ocean.

Tigershark (anonymous profile)
August 28, 2014 at 11:23 p.m. (Suggest removal)

agree with Indyholio, and the sarcastic tone! ...Yet, drdan09 feels a bit disingenuous when claiming "its foolhardy to purchase water anywhere to provide green lawns, irrespective of how rich one is[.]" <-- what? you just figured out the USA is a capitalistic economy?? Plutocracy reigns, materialism rules, groundmine all the water beneath your private plot, don't give back to "the common good", create your wonderful individual life, don't support public education.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
August 29, 2014 at 6:30 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Someone should shadow those water trucks. Or plant a GPS tracker.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
August 29, 2014 at 8:54 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Very few seem to be taking the drought seriously. Seems like most think it will rain—sometime, hopefully soon. While that’s a fine sentiment, the facts don’t seem to support it:

What if it doesn’t rain? Then what? If there isn't more emphasis on educating the public about conservation measures and more than one desalination plant started ASAP, there may eventually be a need for truly draconian regulations about water usage.

That groundwater won’t last long once the dam water is gone.

nativeson (anonymous profile)
August 29, 2014 at 9:56 a.m. (Suggest removal)

If it doesn't rain then the people who like to bath will have to move to another state. Bathing is overrated.

If you believe in climate change then you probably know what the risks are. Sea level rise will inundate the lower part of downtown, and weather patterns will change, bringing drought to the southwest US. I don't think many people actually believe climate change is happening based on the observation that no one is trying to do anything about it.

random_kook (anonymous profile)
August 29, 2014 at 11:10 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Of course, good points, r-k. If they ever get around to building a desalination plant, it should float, because the shoreline may be north of Gutierrez Street.

nativeson (anonymous profile)
August 29, 2014 at 12:47 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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