Santa Ynez River Water Conservation District, ID No.1 Declares Water Shortage Emergency

New State Chromium-6 Regulations and Severe Drought Trigger Need for Mandatory Cutbacks

SANTA YNEZ, CA — The Santa Ynez River Water Conservation District, Improvement District No. 1 (ID No. 1) Board of Trustees formally declared a Stage 1 Water Supply Shortage on Tuesday, the first such declaration in 24 years.

The action is due to new State Department of Public Health Chromium-6 regulations that will limit ID No. 1’s ability to utilize groundwater supplies, compounded with ongoing drought conditions regionally and State-wide. ID No. 1 will continue to provide water for domestic and sanitation purposes and fire protection to ensure the health and safety of its customers, but the declaration gives ID No.1 the ability to set priorities for water usage beyond those core functions.

The action includes a number of restrictions and measures that will increase water conservation and help preserve limited supplies. All ID No. 1 customers are being asked to voluntarily reduce water use by 20 percent. Water service to agricultural customers may be interrupted if needed to maintain water supplies for health and safety purposes.

The Board is closely monitoring the water supply situation and may take further action to promote water conservation and reduce customer water demand later this summer.

“Ensuring there is enough high-quality water to protect the health and safety of our customers is our top priority, and we urge everyone to do their part by conserving and adhering to these new water saving measures,” said Karen Carroll, ID No. 1’s Board President. “Limited water supplies due to drought already hinder our ability to meet demand, and we are doubly impacted as new State Department of Public Health Chromium-6 regulations prohibit us from tapping into a good portion of our groundwater supplies. Without those groundwater supplies, ID No.1 is asking all of our customers to conserve water to ensure we can adequately meet basic needs for health and safety purposes.”

ID No.1 would typically be able to meet water needs during these dry conditions by depending on stored groundwater supplies. However, this new State Department of Public Health standard for the treatment of Chromium-6, a naturally occurring element found in local groundwater supplies, will restrict ID No.1’s ability to use certain key groundwater wells. This creates an unprecedented constraint on ID No.1’s groundwater water supplies which could be reduced by as much as 86%.

“We are faced with a regulatory-induced water shortage concurrent with extreme dry conditions, making the Board’s emergency action necessary,” said Chris Dahlstrom, ID No. 1’s General Manager.

ID No. 1 has always provided drinking water that is safe and reliable for both residential and agricultural customers, while meeting State water quality standards. Currently, drinking water in California must contain no more than 50 parts per billion of Chromium. That is the equivalent of 50 drops of water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool and is already twice as strict as the federal standard for safe drinking water. The new standard, effective July 1, specifically limits Chromium-6 to 10 parts per billion.

Treating groundwater to the new standard is costly and will take time to implement. In the meantime, groundwater wells that do not meet the standard will be taken out of service. ID No.1 is currently considering new blending and filtration systems to ensure it can provide safe and reliable water in future dry years. Such treatment systems could cost as much as $25 million to build and operate. This summer, the ID No. 1 Board of Trustees will make a decision regarding implementing the best and most cost-effective solution. Prior to that decision, the ID No.1 will hold a public workshop to further explain the new regulatory mandate and the range of solutions being explored.

“Until we have the systems in place to treat groundwater supplies, we are at the mercy of this drought,” added Dahlstrom. “ID No.1 is diligently planning and taking actions to carefully manage the water supplies we do have and we need our customers to take part in that by conserving.”

ID No. 1 will continue monitoring the water supply situation and will review the necessity for further water saving measures. The Board opted not to declare a Stage 2 Critical Water Shortage Emergency at its June meeting, but has left open the possibility that it may do so later this summer if voluntary reductions are insufficient.

A Stage 2 Water Emergency would create mandatory water reductions for domestic, rural residential/limited agriculture and agricultural users, and could increase the likelihood that water service to agricultural customers is interrupted.

More information on ID No. 1’s Stage 1 Water Supply Shortage and the new Chromium-6 regulation can be found at

About ID No. 1
Located in the central portion of Santa Barbara County, ID No. 1 serves the communities of Santa Ynez, Los Olivos, Ballard and the City of Solvang. With approximately 6,700 customers (excluding the City of Solvang), the District currently provides water through more than 2,500 municipal and industrial connections and nearly 120 agricultural water service connections. ID No. 1’s mission is to provide residential and agricultural customers in the service area with reasonably priced, reliable, high quality water supply, and efficient and economical public services.


Chris Dahlstrom
General Manager

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