With Tuesday’s rains as a backdrop, the Santa Barbara City Council heard how city water consumers used nearly 1,000 acre-feet more water than usual this year, the driest in city history. Water resources staff reassured councilmembers that water supplies remain safe, sufficient, and reliable, even though southern municipalities are talking rationing. Though Lake Cachuma-the city’s chief water supply-is 70 percent full and its substantial groundwater basins are also close to full, Zaca Fire-caused ash, mud, and silt have seeped into Gibraltar Reservoir, reducing its capacity. Furthermore, the city’s deliveries from Cachuma may be reduced soon to provide more water for the endangered and federally protected steelhead trout. Likewise, deliveries from the state water system-a minor component of the city’s water portfolio-could be curtailed by 30 percent in deference to the Delta smelt, an endangered fish which may be getting sucked into extinction by water turbines in the San Francisco Bay. City staff suggested a wait-and-see approach based on precipitation this rainy season, but councilmember Das Willams said City Hall should start asking water customers to cut back sooner as a response to environmental concerns rather than as a reaction to drought.


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