<b>STATE SIZZLE:</b>  Last year was the hottest in state history, and 2014 is already off to a blistering start. If no rain falls this January ​— ​typically one of the wettest months of the year ​— ​it will be only the fourth time since 1867 that’s ever happened. And water customers, trying to save their plants, are sucking water out of Lake Cachuma even faster than high noon in August.

Paul Wellman

STATE SIZZLE: Last year was the hottest in state history, and 2014 is already off to a blistering start. If no rain falls this January ​— ​typically one of the wettest months of the year ​— ​it will be only the fourth time since 1867 that’s ever happened. And water customers, trying to save their plants, are sucking water out of Lake Cachuma even faster than high noon in August.

In Time of Drought, State Water in Serious Doubt

Central Coast Water Authority Issues Bombshell Warning

Thursday, January 23, 2014
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With much of the country recently seized by a freakish arctic vortex, Santa Barbara’s record-breaking temperatures and perpetual blue skies must seem nothing short of miraculous. But as the county enters its third consecutive dry year, the chief miracle its residents are praying for is rain.

Based on long-term weather forecasts, they’re not praying nearly hard enough.

The problem, obviously, is of statewide scope, and this Friday, California Governor Jerry Brown responded by officially dropping the D-bomb on all of California, declaring a drought emergency. Last year was the state’s driest in recorded weather history ​— ​119 years ​— ​and this year’s snowpack in the Sierras is less than 20 percent of what it needs to be. Brown’s declaration calls on customers and water districts alike to cut back by 20 percent. It loosens the regulatory shackles on water agencies seeking to buy emergency supplies from other jurisdictions or water-rich rice farmers. And it relaxes environmental requirements that water be diverted for endangered fish species.

In similar fashion, the County of Santa Barbara declared a water emergency of its own the same day. But almost a week before, the City of Solvang beat both the governor and the board of supervisors to the punch ​— ​declaring a Stage 1 drought alert and calling for a 15 percent cutback in water use by its customers. Daytime irrigation has been outlawed, as has car washing and sidewalk hosing. Violators will be given two warnings and then socked with a $30 fine.

Solvang’s problems stem from the fact it relies almost exclusively on supplies delivered by the state-water system. This year, the Department of Water Resources (DWR) announced it could deliver only 5 percent of the state water the system’s member agencies are contractually allocated. That means Solvang ​— ​which relies almost entirely on state water to deliver 1,500 acre-feet a year to its customers ​— ​would get only 75 acre-feet.

<b>BIG SPLASH:</b>  Ray Stokes of the Central Coast Water Agency quietly dropped a bombshell last week, notifying every water district manager in the county they may not get a single drop of state water this year. If that happens, it would be a first. For agencies like Montecito’s and Solvang’s, it would be a catastrophe.
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman

BIG SPLASH: Ray Stokes of the Central Coast Water Agency quietly dropped a bombshell last week, notifying every water district manager in the county they may not get a single drop of state water this year. If that happens, it would be a first. For agencies like Montecito’s and Solvang’s, it would be a catastrophe.

In the 60-year history of the state-water system, deliveries have been this low only once before.

But late Friday afternoon, the problems of Solvang ​— ​and every water agency reliant upon state water ​— ​got a lot worse. In Santa Barbara County, that’s every community with the sole exception of Lompoc, whose voters rejected state water in 1991.

Ray Stokes, head of the Central Coast Water Authority (CCWA) ​— ​the joint powers agency responsible for importing state water into Santa Barbara County ​— ​quietly dropped a bombshell of his own, sending out a memo to county water managers that there may not be a single drop of new state water available this coming year.

Zero deliveries.

Not once has that happened before.

Citing the record-low rainfall and negligible snowpack, Stokes wrote, “There is a very real possibility that DWR may decrease the 2014 delivery allocation from the current 5 percent amount to zero percent.” And because of possible salt-water intrusion in the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta ​— ​the pinch point through which all northern California waters must flow on their way south ​— ​Stokes said the delta may now be off-limits as a transfer point for potential water deals from north to south. That’s huge.

The only “good” news in Stokes’s bombshell is that the Department of Water Resources has about 800,000 acre-feet of water in storage reservoirs throughout the state. Of that, 14,000 acre-feet is carryover water “owned” by CCWA in the San Luis Reservoir. That’s water bought and paid for in previous years and put in storage rather than down the drain. Because the San Luis Reservoir is located south of the delta pinch point, those supplies should be safely available for Santa Barbara consumers. But Stokes isn’t taking any chances. “Essentially DWR stated we are in uncharted territory,” Stokes wrote. “I don’t want to sound overly alarming, but it would be very prudent for each CCWA project participant to carefully consider accelerating the requested delivery of water currently available.”

In other words, run, don’t walk.

At maximum pumping rates, all that water could be safely parked in Lake Cachuma sometime this June. Of the 14,000 acre-feet, 7,600 acre-feet would be set aside for South Coast agencies, and the rest would be allocated to North County consumers, the City of Santa Maria and Vandenberg Air Force Base being the largest. With this supply, Stokes estimates CCWA would have the capacity to deliver to 35 percent the agencies’ contractual allocations in the next year.

But would it be wiser to cut back now just in case?

By Paul Wellman

HUNGRY HEIFERS: Cattle ranchers have been slammed hardest, forced to buy hay ​— ​at ever rising prices ​— ​after three consecutive hot dry years left their fields seared and barren.

Thirsty Customers, Crops, and Cows

Droughts, like fires, floods, and earthquakes, are integral to Santa Barbara’s ambient disaster-scape. They are inevitable, somewhat predictable, but ​— ​strangely ​— ​always a fresh revelation in how violent they can be. Superficially, droughts mean brown lawns, yellow toilets, short showers, and withered plants. They mean smaller fruit, dead trees, and wild animals encroaching into the urban zone and domesticated critters mysteriously disappearing. One water district manager described a drought as a slow-motion earthquake. Those most obviously shaken are those living immediately off the land. And along the way, droughts provide us all a very harsh lesson in humility.

In Montecito, home to some of the most lavishly landscaped estates ever imagined, the Montecito Water District board went beyond mere drought declaration, announcing it was facing a bona fide, right-here, right-now water shortage. If customers don’t cut back consumption by 25 percent, the district announced it could actually go dry sometime this fall. But in a place where some customers spend up to $8,000 a month on water, high prices and higher fines have little impact on water use. If cuts aren’t forthcoming, district manager Tom Mosby said he’s ready to attach flow restrictors to the water pipes of noncooperative customers.

Not all water districts on the South Coast are similarly afflicted. Carpinteria, for example, is endowed with a bountiful groundwater basin, unlike Montecito. Thanks to a decision made 23 years ago, Carpinteria signed up for far more state water than it ever needed or could hope to afford. Still, in the current pinch, state water ​— ​even now a hot-button issue in Carpinteria’s most recent water board election ​— ​has come in very handy. Despite such seemingly solid supplies, water boardmember Matt Roberts said he’s scanning the skies for storm clouds. “There’s not even a threat of rain,” he lamented.

Calling the current drought “epic” and “Dust Bowl dry,” Roberts ​— ​a longtime avocado rancher ​— ​is facing tough decisions about the fate of his trees. Without the customary winter rains, he’s been forced to irrigate his crops with water from the district on which he serves. That costs more but isn’t as good. “Rain is much more efficient, complete, and nourishing,” Roberts said. “It’s much higher quality.” With the drought, Roberts said his avocados will be significantly smaller. Smaller fruits also draw lower prices per weight, meaning he could lose money. “If this keeps up, I’ll be subsidizing my operation this year,” he lamented.

For the cattle ranchers, it’s tougher yet. Jim Poett, a longtime rancher from the Lompoc area, said he’s been forced to sell off his calves early for the past two years. “It’s very ugly,” he said. “Not locusts and that stuff, but very ugly.” Without the rains, fields that would normally be winter green are now fall brown. He and other ranchers have been forced to buy hay to feed their livestock, and the price of hay has been going nowhere but up. “If it’s still brown in March, then everything is gone,” Poett stated. “There won’t be any cattle. Some guys might keep a few head, but everything will be sold. This is it. Kaput. But we’re not there yet. It could still rain.” (Poett is the husband of Santa Barbara Independent editor in chief and co-owner Marianne Partridge.)

John McInnes
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman

John McInnes

Water managers with the Goleta Water District say their customers have spent millions securing a diverse supply and drastically reduced per capita consumption to half the City of Santa Barbara’s and one-quarter of Montecito’s. Because of this, said district manager John McGinnis, Goleta should be able to squeak through the next two years without having to declare a drought of any kind. And though Santa Barbara water managers are confident they can make normal deliveries throughout the coming year, they announced they’d declare a Stage 1 drought in March. That’s mostly a gesture designed to promote greater public awareness and voluntary reductions. But still, it’s a year sooner than city drought-response plans are calibrated. In 2011, city water managers synchronized their alarm clocks to the South Coast’s six-year water cycle. Typically, Stage 1 alerts are called for only after three dry years. In this case, the declaration will come after just two.

By Paul Wellman

DOUBLE TROUBLE: Normally water managers plan for six-year droughts, but this shortage might be running twice that fast. As the county enters the third dry year, Lake Cachuma has dipped perilously low, with only enough water left for the next year-and-a-half at current consumption levels.

Cachuma in Peril?

Even so, that’s not soon enough for Councilmember Bendy White, who served as chair of the city’s Water Commission during the crushing drought of 1986-1991. That’s when Santa Barbarans famously painted their lawns green and “water cops” were dispatched by City Hall to crack down on violators. Back then, City Hall entertained all kinds of crackpot schemes, like transporting water from Alaska via tanker or hauling icebergs down to Santa Barbara.

For White, lack of rainfall is only part of the problem. The scorching heat is another, baking the ground hard and dry, the backcountry vegetation into crispy kindling. If Santa Barbara gets no rain this month, it will be only the fourth time in recorded history that’s ever happened. “It’s scary-ass dry,” exclaimed White, who suggested that Santa Barbara’s natural cycle of floods and droughts might be accelerating. “I’m having the hair-on-the-back-of-my-neck sense that something’s not right,” he said.

Lake Cachuma, he noted, has plunged faster in this drought than it did in the same time 23 years ago. In response to unseasonably hot weather ​— ​and rains less than 20 percent of normal ​— ​dam operators are pumping water out of the lake as fast as they typically do in August, not January, while customers scramble to keep their outdoor plants alive. Lake Cachuma ​— ​by far the biggest source of water for Goleta, Carpinteria, Montecito, and Santa Barbara ​— ​has just dipped below 40 percent of its capacity this week.

If it dips below 30 percent ​— ​as it will by September, should present trends continue ​— ​Lake Cachuma’s water level will fall below two of the five portals into which the water is pumped on its way to South Coast customers. In that case, dam operators will find themselves forced to pump the water from a barge on the lake into the portals. The question is at what maximum capacity to calibrate the pumps. Currently, dam operators are looking at a pumping capacity of 44 million gallons a day. What makes that number striking is that the last time this happened ​— ​1990 ​— ​the pumps had a capacity of about 17 million gallons a day. Although Randall Ward of the Cachuma Operations and Maintenance Board had no explanation for this leap, he acknowledged it was dramatic. “That’s not a jump,” he said. “It’s a crescendo.”’

Lake Cachuma currently provides 27,500 acre-feet of water a year to its member agencies. White expressed concern at a recent city council meeting that this amount could be largely reduced for several reasons. At some point, it appears likely that Cachuma operators could be ordered to divert a significant flow downstream to help maintain viable habitat for the federally endangered steelhead trout that once claimed the Santa Ynez River and its tributaries in prodigious numbers. Rebecca Bjork, Santa Barbara’s new public works director and former water director, cautioned there’s no way to know how much water the city could lose as a result of the steelhead preservation efforts and that any final decision remains a long way off.

A more immediate threat may be an apparent shift in professional etiquette among the water managers of the member agencies. In droughts past, there was an understanding among managers that when the dam dipped below 100,000 acre-feet storage, they’d voluntarily reduce their draw by 20 percent. This practice helped stretch limited resources and bought time for agencies as they sought to ratchet back consumption. But with Cachuma now well below the 100,000 acre-foot mark, this cutback has not occurred. “The level of perceived cooperation among member agencies is not as strong,” said Carpinteria’s Roberts. “There’s more of an every-man-for-himself attitude,” he said. In this case, the Goleta district balked. When Goleta declined to participate, the other agencies declined, as well.

According to McGinnis, Lake Cachuma provides his customers the cheapest glass of water they can buy. “If you have two glasses of water side by side, and you’re thirsty, you’re going to drink the cheaper one first,” he explained. “After that, if you’re still thirsty, you’d pay the extra money.” McGinnis added that the Goleta district will pump about 3,000 acre-feet of state water ​— ​much more expensive ​— ​into Lake Cachuma this year, and that contribution will provide the same net effect as if the district had observed the voluntary cutback tradition. Carpinteria’s Roberts noted, “Whenever water becomes scarce, there’ll be more arguments.”

Fluid Solutions

What saved Southern California from the last major drought was the Miracle March rain of 1991. Rarely has so massively messy an inundation been the cause of such mass jubilation. But between 1986 and 1991, South Coast water agencies and residents made major changes. Low-flow toilets and showerheads became ubiquitous, and drip irrigation more broadly embraced. Local governments invested in a new reclaimed-water-distribution system so treated sewage water, rather than drinking water, could be used to irrigate soccer fields and parks. Santa Barbara city residents cut their consumption in half, successfully spurred on by new punitive water prices. Prices stayed the same for the daily minimum needed for indoor use; after that, prices increased 16-fold. It worked.

Farmers embraced more efficient irrigation methods. Water districts adopted drought-management plans and hired conservation officers to show customers how to make every drop count. And local governments invested millions upon millions on new water supplies. In 1991, Santa Barbara County voters approved hooking into the state-water system for the first time, locking themselves ​— ​collectively ​— ​into annual payments of $50 million, whether they got any water or not. Likewise, South Coast voters approved the construction of a desalination plant ​— ​with a maximum capacity of 10,000 acre-feet a year. Upon completion, the desal plant stayed up and operating long enough to fill a few hundred plastic bottles with slightly salty-tasting water, but it has been offline ever since.

The desal plant currently exists more in popular imagination than in real life. Its components have long been mothballed; some were sold off, and many need to be replaced. In a best-case scenario, it would take two years and $18 million to get that plant up and running. In a worst-case world, the coastal commission would object that the plant relies on antiquated technology that inflicts undue harm to the marine environment and would require something other than what City Hall owns.

In this drought, the deus ex machina that will be invoked as the long-term fix to our chronic water woes is Governor Brown’s much-debated Twin Tunnels project. Brown has proposed building two massive pipes underneath the delta that would carry Northern California’s water safely ​— ​and with little environmental detriment ​— ​to southern customers. Proponents contend the Twin Tunnels will enable the state-water project to avoid the environmental pitfall of sending water through the delta, home of the famously endangered delta smelt, and thus increase the reliable delivery of an additional 800,000 acre-feet a year. The price tag for this project ​— ​depending upon the source ​— ​ranges from $25 billion to $60 billion. There’s no shortage of opponents lined up to fight this project tooth and nail, claiming the costs have been grossly minimized while the benefits have been vastly exaggerated. The current crisis will be seized upon by proponents, but under even the most accelerated timetable, there’s no possibility such a colossal project could be built in time to provide relief now.

By Paul Wellman

GATHER ACORNS: Even if it does rain, at least 20 inches of precipitation are needed to generate runoff into area reservoirs. Until then, water planners hope to discourage afternoon irrigation ​— ​like this whirlybird on a polo field between Summerland and Carpinteria.

Water Willies

The good news is that Goleta, Santa Barbara, and Carpinteria have solid groundwater supplies, though Carpinteria’s pumping infrastructure needs serious work. Solvang and Montecito have shallow aquifers with limited storage. In the past, well-heeled Montecitans, put off by past conservation campaigns or district interference, have drilled their own wells. According to Montecito district director Mosby, at least two dozen wells have failed in recent months. Others are encroaching on groundwater supplies upon which the district depends. Thanks to the importation of state water years ago, the Montecito district issued about 500 new meters to customers it otherwise could not serve. But for Montecito and Solvang to make it, they’ll need other water agencies ​— ​less reliant upon state water  ​— ​to sell some of theirs. In a less cooperative landscape, that may prove easier said than done.

Santa Barbara’s reclaimed-water system, it turns out, has barely functioned for the past seven years. It’s now being taken offline for major repairs. When that work is completed two years hence, it will replace 1,300 acre-feet of potable water that could more directly meet human needs. In the meantime, that extra demand places additional drain on limited supplies.

<b>PARCHED:</b>  Tom Mosby of the Montecito Water District declared a bona fide water shortage, predicting that without rain or a 25 percent cutback by customers ​— ​some of whom use $8,000 a month in water a month ​— ​Montecito could go dry by fall.
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman

PARCHED: Tom Mosby of the Montecito Water District declared a bona fide water shortage, predicting that without rain or a 25 percent cutback by customers ​— ​some of whom use $8,000 a month in water a month ​— ​Montecito could go dry by fall.

When Santa Barbara’s first dam ​— ​Gibraltar Dam ​— ​was built in 1920, it was billed as the ultimate solution to the region’s water-supply challenges, capable of delivering about 3,000 acre-feet a year. (The city’s total demand is 14,000 acre-feet. ) Today, Gibraltar ​— ​located a few miles upstream from Lake Cachuma ​— ​is all but bone dry. “This is the first time in my life Gibraltar has been this dry,” said Russell Ruiz, a longtime water warrior and member of the city’s water commission. The dam has been rendered effectively inoperable by the vast buildup of silt caused by years of operation and severely exacerbated by deposits of ash and soil erosion caused by the recent Zaca Fire. At a recent City Council meeting, Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider asked the cost of dredging Gibraltar. Sometime later, her colleague Councilmember White calculated it would take 1.6 million truckloads to haul.

For the time being, city public works chief Bjork is maintaining a posture of vigilant confidence, even with the recent revelations about state-water deliveries. “Am I nervous?” she asked. “As a water manager, I have to be nervous. But we still have a diverse supply, our groundwater’s in good shape, and we’re still on track to make normal deliveries this year.”

In the meantime, Councilmember White hasn’t shaken that feeling that’s caused the hair on the back of his neck to stand at perpetual attention. He remains spooked. In the meantime, he intends to play the role of Cassandra, warning his fellow councilmembers on a weekly basis how dry things are. “The only rain to fall at all in the whole state of California for the month of January was just a smidgen in Eureka,” he said. “That’s it! And January is traditionally when we feast.”

White recognizes all his hyperventilation could be for naught. He sincerely hopes it is. Intoning what’s become the de facto universal prayer for those seeking to ward off drought, White noted, “It could always rain in February.”

By Paul Wellman

Lake Cachuma

State Water’s Double-Edged Sword

Critics of state water have long contended that the system won’t be able to deliver when it’s most needed, because droughts tend to be statewide in scope. Certainly this is a case in point. But supporters of the system ​— ​and Santa Barbara County’s decision to hook into the state-water project at an annual cost of $50 million ​— ​contend that even when the system can’t deliver water, the pipes and infrastructure will give the regions the capacity to buy water from other purveyors Santa Barbara would not otherwise have. And they point out that the South Coast would be in far worse shape right now if it hadn’t banked previous year’s allotments in nearby reservoirs. It’s a complicated picture.

Montecito, for example, would be in a deeper hole than it currently is were it not for its ability to import state water. Since voters approved the hookup, Montecito took on about 500 additional customers ​— ​and the additional demand they put on the system. That would not have happened were it not for state water. At the same time, without state water, the district would lack the tools needed to secure additional supplies. Carpinteria’s picture is complicated in a different way. For years, state water has placed an intense financial burden on the small district that opted for an allotment of 2,000 acre-feet at a cost of $3 million annually.

Because there’s no guaranteed quantity of water delivered under the state-water system, water districts say they’re really paying for the pipes. So if Carpinteria were to get 100 acre-feet this year ​— ​as it would under the 5 percent delivery scenario ​— ​it would be at a cost of $3 million. The pipes, however, have allowed the cash-strapped district, which once boasted the highest rates in the county, to sell water in previous years to other districts. And with the onset of the drought, the Carpinteria district ​— ​once eager to unload its state-water obligation ​— ​is less anxious to sell.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

We can thank Willy Chamberlin and COLAB for many of our water problems today. We had a solid slow growth leader of the Board of Supervisors in Bill Wallace. Chamberlain and COLAB thought they knew better, and look where we are now. Had we kept Wallace's policies in place , our water demands would be significantly less in these dire times.
Goleta is approving everything that comes to planning and development, the supervisors just approved the Santa Maria Energy Project expansion that will consume 300,000 gallons of water a day , and water conservation has been a rarely heard phrase heard from our county leaders.
Oh how I wish we had the prescient type leadership of the past instead of the run of the mill incompetents we have elected now.

geeber (anonymous profile)
January 23, 2014 at 4:50 a.m. (Suggest removal)


A fine piece of writing. Let's hope it rains soon! As a resident since 1957, I've never seen a winter as dry as this one.

pfeldmann (anonymous profile)
January 23, 2014 at 5:01 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Research and development on improved and new water treatment methods is very little, with some rare exceptions, often done by private inventors. New developments that get reported in the press are often "ideas", not "inventions". There is an important difference here. An invention has to be useful and reduce-able to practice. However, I do know of one example of an extremely useful deionization technology being shown recently at an Aquatech trade show in Amsterdam. A lack of formal research infrastructure in new water purification technology impedes adoption of needed new technologies. A government report, below, wrote about this lack of interest in new technologies, ten years ago, saying that chickens would come home to roost unless something was done. Well, not much was done.

mespilus (anonymous profile)
January 23, 2014 at 7:50 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Another fine piece of reporting, Nick. The only thing I missed seeing was the original argument for the State Water Project - that California rarely had a drought that affected both north and south simultaneously. The water buffaloes who sold this project to thirsty Southern Californians used that flawed argument (ignoring old records from the pre-1850's) to convince local gov'ts unburdened by critical thinkers to jump on the pipeline bandwagon. For awhile, Santa Barbara resisted joining the SWP (and there would be no coastal branch of the pipeline without SB's participation) until the drought of the late 80's panicked South Coasters into buying back into the project). The problem with humans and water is that they will always use more than they should, and then be in a fix when supplies dwindle. Can you imagine the screams of outrage from some of those Montecito trust fund babies and hedge fund managers when they're told they can't keep their polo fields green because of some nuisance steelhead species in the Santa Ynez? Why, the South Coast may have to call out the National Guard to prevent some of those water hogs from cheating...

I can't imagine a better allegory of the consequences of living among the 1% - there won't be anymore trickle in the 'trickle-down.'

Pagurus (anonymous profile)
January 23, 2014 at 10:28 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Very informative piece Nick, thanks. But I think we must remember that no matter how much money we throw at infrastructure, we can't create any new water. We would have been much better off with just the desal plant and no State Water for the money. As former Supervisor Bill Wallace said to me when he heard how much the State Water pipe was going to cost ($over 50 million for SB a year) and how much the desal plant cost ($36 million to complete the plant in 1993)...we could have built 1 1/2 desal plants every year for what we are spending on state water and have a much more reliable supply of water.

We are stuck with the State Water hook-up gargantuan bill but we should not exacerbate the problem by throwing more good money after bad with the Twin Tunnels. Just like the Coastal Branch to Santa Barbara, the Twin Tunnels cannot guarantee any new water.

We need to concentrate on local reliable supplies...the desal plant gives us the option to turn it on when we need it. I believe we should be working as hard as we can right now to get our current desal plant up and running again. This is an emergency and desal is here...and that's 10,000 acre feet of potable local water (Santa Barbara has a promise of 3,000 acre feet a year from the State Water Project, Montecito a promise of 3,000 acre feet a year from the State Water Project, and Goleta has a promise for about 4,500 acre feet a year from the State Water Project.)

So you see the desal plant that we have built can actually deliver what the State Water Project has promised but can NEVER deliver.

Go to our website for more information on the Twin Tunnels and water issues...

CaroleeKrieger (anonymous profile)
January 23, 2014 at 11:16 a.m. (Suggest removal)


Why don't we just throw our hand up like this...

(Inside joke. Maybe the Indy will print my letter so we can all share in the laugh!)

touristunfriendly (anonymous profile)
January 23, 2014 at 12:04 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I dont have much sympathy at all for the avocado farmers, the citrus growers or the ranchers. To read that the may lose money because their subsidized businesses dont receive as much subsidized water is not a tragedy its reality... they can handle it and if they cant, go out of business.

There is no right to make years and years of ungodly profits off the precious resources which are for everyone's use... The world can do just fine without avocados or oranges. We can do just fine without the cattle. In fact we can import all of them without much cost... We cannot do fine without residential water.

Cut the farmers off. All of them. Let them feel the pain and let the land breath for a few years. If it rains, it rains. The Ag industry is a hold over from a bygone era and they and their tax credits, their discounted water, their chemicals pollution and their illegal immigrant work force, are not necessary for the whole to survive.

iamsomeguyinsb (anonymous profile)
January 23, 2014 at 2:12 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Dude, what are we supposed to eat? Import ALL our food? Are you crazy? Why be more dependent on outside resources (thus at their mercy?) Keeping local ag keeps the local community independent and healthier. the more dependant on outside resources, the more dysfunctional communities become.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
January 23, 2014 at 2:25 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Ken's right-I mean,Correct!
How about those obscene profits the Towbes group reaps for building inclussionary,low income,mixed housing projects that the progressives can't rubber stamp quickly enough-they must drive around with those oversized scissors in the back of their Prius's ready to go....

garfish (anonymous profile)
January 23, 2014 at 3:03 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Each year myself and two other guys go diving for a week. We have a 60 gallon water tank and 5 gal water heater. Each take a hot shower each day after diving. The shower head has a on/off button. Mix the water temp, spray, soap, rinse. Head, toilet for the land people, uses vacuum assist and a small amount of fresh water per flush. We don't run out of water.

Urban environment has many ways to save water.

howgreenwasmyvalley (anonymous profile)
January 23, 2014 at 3:48 p.m. (Suggest removal)

My landlord planted "drought tolerant" plants at the height of the summer heat last year and has proceeded to drown the plants once a week since then. Sometimes overlapping with the complex's gardeners' schedule. Personally, in years where the winter rain is sparse I take fewer and shorter showers, flush only when necessary and try to keep water usage low. Unfortunately my rental's appliances aren't efficient, they are simply old. I really hope my landlord is exceptionally oblivious and will start cutting back but sadly I doubt it.

It feels like all these announcements waited far too long because folks like my landlord aren't likely to stop until there are fines and penalties. Which is truly shameful.

ringsroses (anonymous profile)
January 23, 2014 at 6:20 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Here's a good oportunity to give a shout out and bravo to Joe's Cafe on State STt. for taking the lead in implementing water rationing in our local restaurants.
The locally owned eateries will implement much faster than the corporate owned ones.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
January 23, 2014 at 7:15 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Has The Paradise Cafe implemented water rationing?

*PS Sorry for typos.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
January 23, 2014 at 7:37 p.m. (Suggest removal)

So what are implementing? They're charging by the glass now?

touristunfriendly (anonymous profile)
January 23, 2014 at 8:59 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Outstanding article. Thanks for it and I hope it will remain on the Indy home page as long as this drought lasts.

As for cutting off, ag (iamsomguysb), if there's no ag, guess what there will be? Houses, houses, houses and more houses consuming more and more water. We have the lawyers at Hatch and Parent, especially Mr. Stan Hatch, and their water cattle handmaidens to thank for State Water (I suspect that Ms. Krieger would agree!) and that brought in more and more development, such as we're seeing in Goleta thanks to that city council.

I agree with Ken_Volok's response re the importance of local, although it's too bad he has to follow up with an ad hominem against the management of Paradise Cafe. If you want to know if water is being freely served there, go and see for yourself, Ken, and report back.

at_large (anonymous profile)
January 24, 2014 at 8:21 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Glasses of water, showers, sprinklers, have virtually no impact on the greater amount of water use... its Ag that sucks up most of our water. For profits...

Ken, We can certainly survive without Avocados and Citrus and local beef. Go to your grocery store and look where 99% of your produce and meats come from... its not local. <1% are...

iamsomeguyinsb (anonymous profile)
January 24, 2014 at 9:31 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Nick, great job except for a major omission. One of the biggest users of water for people, irrigation and research is UCSB. You kinda left out that UCSB has a proposal to lift their enrollment cap, which would add 5,000 new students, plus their families (many will be grads) plus additional professors, plus additional staff. They plan to house them all on campus. Additionally, they will need people in the community to supply them services.

The number of people and housing units the rest of us will add pales in comparison to UCSB's plan. And since the campus has only a few water meters for the entire campus, conservation is hard to regulate or manage.

Nick, I assume that you just overlooked UCSB because usually you show no fear of our institutions. Maybe a follow up article is in store?

dprince (anonymous profile)
January 24, 2014 at 10:45 a.m. (Suggest removal)

iamsomeguyinsb, thank you for your response. I think supply lines can be changed.
And maybe we need to take a look at essentail ag (beef, avos, citrus) vs nonessential (wine vineyards). If you're nonessential you either pay more or get none. How much of the Cachuma water got used up by the wine industry which serves only a luxury purpose?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
January 24, 2014 at 10:56 a.m. (Suggest removal)

To further illustrate, we can use the example of a hamomeless panhandler- a topic popular here.
You give a guy ten dollar, would you rather they spent it on something nutritious like orange juice or a bottle of wine?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
January 24, 2014 at 10:58 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Nick, very good and thorough article. I have to wonder: during the emergency, why continue to use Cachuma as a open-air surge tank for SWP deliveries, which will evaporate very quickly as the days get longer and the mud puddle gets smaller and warmer. I've been out of the water planning loop for a while, but it seems like it'd make more sense to inject any SWP deliveries underground, assuming that the basins have available storage capacity and that, in Montecito especially, the swells don't steal it with their private wells.

GregMohr (anonymous profile)
January 24, 2014 at 3:33 p.m. (Suggest removal)

SB Board of Realtors was the big mover and shaker behind state water. Enviros backed the desal only option, which should have been the one and only back-up choice to make and then move into slow growth big time to live comfortably within our limited natural resources..

However, City of Santa Barbara staff has been a big mover shaker in densification in the past decade, so hard to just blame Willie Chamberlin at this late date. Ignoring illegal second units, converted garages and garden shed rentals right in the city of SB has well exceeded its own sustainable population limits by default; and not by design. This was progressive enlightenment in action.

City revenues to support increased city compensation has long driven the local growth agenda. Yup, we get to blame the public employee unions yet again who never met a revenue enhancer they did not like. Growth was good, in their eyes.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
January 24, 2014 at 5:36 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Ground water remains a large part of SB water resources planning. Which operates on a 14 year drought cycle. Shhhhhhh ..don't tell. We should be putting jugs and buckets under our faucets anyway and watering our gardens with just what we normally would let run down the drain, when we got lazy in the past.

Hard to believe there are not measurable impacts due to the massive diversion of run-off created by the SWP. Who has been keeping score on the downstream impacts of materially changing the state's down streams thought all its water management programs, both state and federal.

Has this increased salinity of our oceans? Has any increased salinity due to normal ocean run-off patterns caused melting of the polar ice cap, and has nothing at all to do with "global warming"?

foofighter (anonymous profile)
January 24, 2014 at 5:42 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The NASA Aquarius instrument aboard Argentina's SAC-D satellite is designed to measure global sea surface salinity. This movie shows salinity patterns as measured by Aquarius from December 2011 through December 2012. Red colors represent areas of high salinity, while blue shades represent areas of low salinity. It is important to understand salinity, the amount of dissolved salts in water, because it will lead us to better understanding of the water cycle and can lead to improved climate models. High concentrations (over 37 practical salinity units) are usually in the center of the ocean basins away from the mouths of rivers, which input fresh water. High concentrations are also in sub-tropical regions due to high rates of evaporation (clear skies, little rain, and prevailing winds) and in landlocked seas in arid regions. At high latitudes, salinity is low. This can be attributed to lower evaporation rates and the melting of ice that dilutes seawater. To sum up, salinity is low where precipitation is greater than evaporation, mainly in coastal or equatorial regions. Credit: NASA/GSFC/JPL-Caltech

tabatha (anonymous profile)
January 25, 2014 at 12:32 p.m. (Suggest removal)

And you just dismiss the Twin Tunnel infrastructure project since it may not be ready by the time THIS drought is over....????

You're missing a central point that drought is a frequent CONDITION in Southern California....Twin Tunnels may be ready for the NEXT drought and bring relief to farmers and cattle ranchers and montecito homeowners, but that's not worth the investment???

thomas592003 (anonymous profile)
January 26, 2014 at 8:36 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Why is CalTrans still watering landscaping?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
January 26, 2014 at 11:52 a.m. (Suggest removal)

A modern megadrought? Tree rings give clues to state's dry-spell history

tabatha (anonymous profile)
January 26, 2014 at 9:49 p.m. (Suggest removal)

It's a good thing to see now what a con job state water was,
so that we can understand that twin tunnels is also a con job.

Who remembers the plot of Chinatown?
Make a drought, developers buy up the farms,
build houses.

The only "water" that will come from these con job projects is the debt we will drown in. The con job is to use the public debt as a motivator for development. Too much government, ruining everything, all the time.

native2sb (anonymous profile)
January 27, 2014 at 8:57 a.m. (Suggest removal)


Good Find. Living out West since the 1600's, my oral family history is ripe with surviving drought conditions in the desert.

We may be in for a big one, who knows, until we have the luxury of hind site, we really won't know.

I beat the overpopulation drum because we just don't have water flowing down from Canada each year like the North East.

It is really difficult to explain to Yankees who are used to unlimited water that water is a scarce and precious finite commodity in the West.

Greed to put development dollars in their pockets, governments that gorge themselves on growth dollars, blind them all to reality.

In the end Mother Nature will have the last comment and we could very well see a dust bowl migration headed back East as trillions of dollars of real estate becomes worthless because of the simple lack of water.

Human arrogance that we are not governed by Natural Law will lead to the downfall of the USA and the planet both politically and environmentally, we are but small fish in a system that is beyond our ability or ego's to comprehend.

The environmental disaster that is looming pales in comparison to the Resource Wars of the big three Military Industrial Complex Nations competing for the scraps of earth resource left. China is not building aircraft carriers for the fun it.

The die is cast and I really fear for the hell that is coming, all because of overpopulation. Mother Nature is going to cull a few billion with the help of a massive global resource war. This timeline is my opinion is cast in stone, sadly way to late to turn around.

howgreenwasmyvalley (anonymous profile)
January 27, 2014 at 10:44 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Recycled Water: Relative to CalTrans, City parks, UCSB landscaping, golf courses -- they use recycled water from the sewage treatment plant. I does seem anomalous to see water running over the curbs and spraying on the roadways when we are so short, but that water would otherwise be discharged into the ocean.

There may be cemeteries and some large green spaces that don't get recycled water -- if so, they should seek to convert.

maven12 (anonymous profile)
January 27, 2014 at 12:21 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Thanks Maven, hopefully some of that run off sinks into the ground but more than likely it just evaporates.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
January 27, 2014 at 12:24 p.m. (Suggest removal)

when we were talked into buying State Water there were plenty of Jeremiahs stressing honestly that when supplies got low, WE in SB could not be sure the water would come. We were dreaming to buy into State Water in the first place; the desal plant is an expensive polluting joke. Clearly, conservation is demanded, and many of us have begun our own reductions. And thanks for the tidbit, Nick, that among the Montecitans "some of whom use $8,000 a month" -- well, maybe like Harold Simmons (now gone) they just don't care and like the Hwy 101 pro left-side ramps people, they really do not care. Let them eat cake is the message!

DrDan (anonymous profile)
January 27, 2014 at 6:36 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I wouldn't be too worried about it. I was at the city council meeting when they discussed the reserve budget and how they're going to spend it...

There's no natural disasters in SB!
give a half a mil to the chief and 4.4 to 37 other employees. what could it hurt?

touristunfriendly (anonymous profile)
January 27, 2014 at 8:04 p.m. (Suggest removal)

We were going to two an iceberg down from Alaska, but that pesky global warming put a kibosh on that scheme this time. Simmons paid to have water for his Montecito landscaping trucked in from someplace where is was not in short supply. It is okay for rich people to spend their money. Honestly, it is. I'd pay to save a fruit orchard.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
January 27, 2014 at 8:22 p.m. (Suggest removal)

With money supply booming and water drying up,
how about planting dollar bills for green lawns?

Also makes a tasty salad, goes down easier than kale.

native2sb (anonymous profile)
January 28, 2014 at 9:23 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Was out at the Upper Santa Ynez last weekend. All the river crossings are bone dry and Gibralter is looking like that big dirt hole behind Deckers in Goleta. The upside is the road to Mono, etc. is in excellent condition with no rain to erode it.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
January 29, 2014 at 9:34 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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