Drought Report Card: Goleta Shines in Statewide Water Conservation Rankings

November 05, 2015
GoletaDrought By Melinda Burns, Noozhawk Contributing Writer

Photo: Noozhawk

Per-capita water-usage report released for September, showing Santa Barbara County has reduced water use by 30 percent overall

Goleta residents are the thriftiest water users in Santa Barbara County, third most conservationist on the Central Coast, and 15 among 389 urban communities in California, according to the State Water Resources Control Board.

Goleta’s population of 87,000 used just under 53 gallons per capita of water per day in September, on average, a savings of 28 percent compared to September of 2013, the latest board report shows.

Among 28 water suppliers on the Central Coast, Goleta placed third after Santa Cruz and King City, where residents used an average 41 and 51 gallons per capita per day, respectively. The statewide residential average for September was 97 gallons.

“It’s remarkable what people have done in this community to get their water use down,” said Ryan Drake, Goleta Water District water supply and conservation manager.

Goletans learned how to conserve during the last big drought, from 1986 to 1991, Drake said. Back then, the district was first in California and the United States to offer rebates for retrofitting homes with low-flow toilets.

The slogan was, “You’re Sitting on the Solution.” Customers also were urged to “Take a Shower with a Friend.”

In the current drought, 450 Goleta residents have replaced their lawns, pulled up thirsty hibiscus, and made other changes to landscaping, availing themselves of $375,000 in district rebates to date, Drake said.

The State Water Resources Control Board began closely monitoring water agencies in June this year, after Gov. Jerry Brown ordered an immediate 25 percent reduction in water use across California through February 2016.

Standards were set for each water agency based on a sliding scale, taking into account past conservation gains.

The board report for September, released last week, ranks urban water agencies by hydrologic region from the thriftiest to the most profligate residential use.

It shows that Lompoc residents placed second in Santa Barbara County for water conservation and seventh on the Central Coast, at an average 64 gallons per capita per day.

Most of Lompoc’s water comes from wells: residents have historically opposed major county water projects, including the construction of the $43 million dam upstream on the Santa Ynez River at Lake Cachuma and the $590 million pipeline that brings state aqueduct water from Kern County to Santa Barbara County.

Santa Barbara residents used 72 gallons of water per capita per day in September, placing third in the county and 11th on the Central Coast list.

Carpinteria and Santa Maria residents were in the middle of the pack, with 81 and 93 gallons per capita per day, respectively.

Across California, the average drop in residential water use during September was 26 percent, compared to September 2013, exceeding Brown’s mandate for a fourth straight month, during one of the hottest summers on record.

Santa Barbara County’s residential water use dropped an average 30 percent during the same period.

“The news is still quite good,” Felicia Marcus, chairwoman of the state water resources board, told reporters on Friday. She urged Californians not to let down their guard just because a wet El Niño winter is coming.

South Coast water source Lake Cachuma, seen here at the end of July, is at 16 percent capacity after four years of drought. Click to view larger

South Coast water source Lake Cachuma, seen here at the end of July, is at 16 percent capacity after four years of drought. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk file photo)

Signs point to a lot of rain for Southern California, Marcus said, but the state needs rain and snow in the north to fill its reservoirs.

“We can’t be gamblers when we’re in the worst drought we’ve seen,” Marcus said. “We can’t choose hope over preparation. Future droughts are going to be severe like this one.”

On Friday, the board announced $61,000 fines for four water agencies — the state’s first such enforcement actions in the drought — for failing to meet conservation standards.

They are Beverly Hills (161 gallons per capita per day), and the desert communities of Redlands (235 gallons), Indio (143 gallons), and the Coachella Valley (301 gallons).

Their water agencies can appeal the penalties to the board within 20 days.

Santa Barbara County has its share of big water users, too.

Orcutt’s population of 32,000 and Montecito’s population of 13,500 placed last in state rankings for Santa Barbara County and the Central Coast: Their residents are using 138 and 211 gallons per capita per day, respectively, on average.

Montecito, a wealthy enclave of large estates, is one of only 25 communities in California using more than 200 gallons per capita per day, or twice the state average.

At the same time, Orcutt’s Golden State Water Company and the Montecito Water District have slashed their overall residential water use by 40 percent and 47 percent over the summer, respectively, compared to the summer of 2013. In doing so, they avoided fines from the state board.

The Santa Ynez Water Conservation District, serving Solvang, Los Olivos, Santa Ynez and Ballard, is not required to report to the state board because of its small size.

The district does not manage Solvang's water. Between 2013 and 2015, residential water use for 6,700 people in the remaining communities of the Santa Ynez Valley dropped at least 36 percent, district officials said.

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