Santa Barbara Creeks Running Again

Weekend Rains Raise Reservoir Water Levels Slightly

Mission Creek from the woodlands at the Natural History Museum | Credit: Courtesy

The music of running water returned to Santa Barbara creeks after the rains on Saturday, with the continued overnight downpours topping seven inches at the San Marcos Pass and about an inch and a half in town by the end of the weekend. The cold night even brought a sprinkling of snow to the tops of the Santa Ynez Mountains.

Lake Cachuma itself received about three inches of rain from the storm, plus runoff from the Santa Ynez River. The total increase was about 450 acre-feet of water, though the current capacity is just 31.5 percent of full. Gibraltar is similarly at 30.1 percent full, and Jameson Reservoir above Montecito at 56.3 percent capacity.

In the Sierras, where a deep snowpack would feed rivers and reservoirs in the spring and summer, about two to four feet fell in the passes. The National Water and Climate Center puts the current snow water equivalent between 200 and 300 percent of the median over the previous decade.

Whether snow and rain will continue or dry up, as it did last year, remains a big question when it comes to the drought. The most recent El Niño–La Niña forecast from the Climate Prediction Center indicated colder, drier La Niña conditions through February or perhaps March, with a 71 percent chance of neutral, or normal, rain conditions February through April.

At the start of the winter rainy season, the state Department of Water Resources put the State Water Project allocation at 5 percent. The hope, expressed by Ray Stokes who runs the Central Coast Water Authority, is that with all the precipitation in Northern California, the allocation will go up in the new year.

Mission Creek flowing after recent rains | Credit: Jean Yamamura

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