Santa Barbara County is experiencing its lowest rainfall in 10 years, a scenario that is likely the new normal.
“There is substantial uncertainty about how climate change will affect precipitation in our county,” said Matt Young, Santa Barbara County’s water agency manager. “However, the best available science indicates that we may see longer drought periods punctuated by years with more intense rainfall.”
Only two of the past 10 years have experienced above-average rainfall.
A massive storm hit northern California over the weekend, and Santa Barbara is expected to get rain on Monday, but it would take months of steady rain to move the region out of drought status. Despite the drought conditions, not every jurisdiction in the county is experiencing the impacts in the same way.
Some agencies have greater access to a water supply for a variety of reasons, including more groundwater. Groundwater basins dropped to their lowest levels in most jurisdictions. Two above-average years of rain, in 2017 and 2019, have helped boost those conditions, but overall, groundwater supplies are below average.
The Carpinteria Valley Water District; the cities of Buellton and Solvang; La Cumbre Mutual Water Co., which serves Hope Ranch and Hope Ranch Annex; and Golden State Water Co., which serves Orcutt, are experiencing Stage II drought conditions, which require water cutbacks and other actions.
The jurisdictions in the less severe Stage 1 drought status are the cities of Guadalupe, Lompoc, Santa Barbara and Santa Maria, the Cuyama Community Services District, the Los Alamos Community Services District, the Mission Hills Community Services District, the Montecito Water District and the Vandenberg Village Community Services District. The Santa Ynez River Water Conservation District No. 1 has a “below normal” water supply alert, which requires 10% reduction.
“Countywide, the last 10 years have been the driest on record, putting pressure on both surface water and groundwater supplies,” Young said. “Local water providers who have invested in local sources such as recycled water and desalination are best positioned to make it through the drought with a minimum of mandatory water use restrictions.”
Cachuma Lake is at about 48.5% of its capacity. Gibraltar Reservoir, which serves Santa Barbara, is at 4.1%.
Cachuma Lake is at about 48.5% of its capacity. (Peter Hartmann / Noozhawk photo)
“Drought conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property have arisen within the County of Santa Barbara,” the resolution…