If the dry El Niño last year and the prospect of dubious rainfall from this winter’s predicted La Niña aren’t enough to spur even greater water conservation among Santa Barbarans, the city has released an aerial video showing Lake Cachuma — or the sides and bottom of what was once a lake — in September. The pipe gushing water from the State Water Project into a big, receding puddle forms the starting point of the video, which then tours the boating ramps and current and former barge locations from which water is pumped into the tunnel — now 100 feet above the lake surface — that supplies South County homes and businesses.
City water users have reduced usage by 35 percent compared to 2013, but the drought has left Cachuma at 7 percent currently. With a steely-eyed look to the end of next summer, the city evenly divides the year’s water supply as coming from state water and other purchased water, groundwater, and desal, plus about 10 percent coming from recycled water — the lake is absent from their calculations, such is their pessimism with this historic drought. The small amounts of rain Santa Barbara received recently measurably decreased water use, a fact significant to the proposed lawn-watering ban before the City Council in November and December, intended to bring water conservation to 40 percent.