The Montecito Water District board voted unanimously last month to forgive $16,110 – the equivalent of one week’s water loss – out of a total penalty charge of $57,060 for an underground leak in December at the San Ysidro Ranch, a luxury hotel at 900 San Ysidro Lane.
Hotel managers had requested forgiveness of the entire amount: they did not discover the leak until late in the month because it had pooled on a neighboring property.
The resulting $40,950 penalty for the hotel is one of the largest to be assessed by the district for a single month’s water overuse. The hotel’s water bill for December, not counting the penalty, was $23,700.
Penalties kick in when a customer uses more than the monthly allocation that was set by the district to encourage conservation in the drought. Records show that the San Ysidro Ranch, with 40 bungalows and extensive gardens, has exceeded its allocation in 19 of the past 24 months by 20 percent, on average.
In all, the district has collected $7.4 million in penalties from its customers since the allocations went into effect in March, 2014. Of the total, the San Ysidro Ranch has now paid more than $295,000.