The drought is over: water regulations remain in place
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Santa Barbara Water Agency celebrated the end of California’s seven-year drought on March 19. However, the agency continues to warn residents that the city is not fully in the clear. They want to warn the public that there is a high chance Santa Barbara county will find itself in another drought in the near future. The warning also emphasizes that the city still faces a water shortage. “Normal-to-Date” rainfall is following a steady 135 percent of normal precipitation, but this percentage will decrease if residents begin to disregard water regulations. The end of the seven-year drought does not mean that water regulations have been lifted. The Independent reports that the city needs to remain prepared for future recurrences of drought. “Water conservation is a way of life in Santa Barbara in order to extend supplies whether it be a dry or wet year,” City of Santa Barbara Water Conservation Supervisor Madeline Wood told The Horizon.
Lake Cachuma reached an elevation level of 736.87 feet this past week, which is 76 percent of the Lake Recreation Department’s elevation spillway of 753 feet. Lake Cachuma supplies over half the water needs of South Coast Water Agencies, so the drought’s end was a relief for the Water Departments of Santa Barbara, reported the Independent. For Lake Cachuma Recreational Park, this means easier access to the water and water related activities, not to mention happy visitors and rangers. Rosie Bishop, Head of Naturalization at Lake Cachuma State Park, explained to The Horizon that the increase in water at the parks means healthier wildlife at the park. The overall sites at the park are now flourishing. “Our lake capacity is at 76 percent and on the first of the year it was 30 percent. Therefore, water supply has more than doubled over the last couple months,” she said. KEYT made a statement that the February rain storms are responsible for the primary dent that was made in California’s drought.
Even though the drought has reached an end the water agencies in Montecito, Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, and Goleta have taken large monetary hits to provide residents with water over the past seven years. The Independent said that these communities have substantial water debt from state aqueducts in California. In return, Santa Barbara must now return an equal amount of water in the next ten years. Santa Barbara Water Department is preparing to repeal stage three regulations in the beginning of April at the City Council meeting. The revised water conservation contract proposed in March of 2017 imposes regulations on outdoor water, commercial water, and water waste. In light of the end of the drought they will suggest the implementation of stage one regulations, said Wood.
As for the drought’s effect on community farmers, “these past years have been very challenging,” Lorena and Mike Iniguez, farmers at Ebby’s Organic Farm in Goleta told The Horizon. Their jobs continuously depend on water supply in order to produce a healthy quality and variety of crops. “We are thankful for the rain and the news of the drought reaching an end, but this is not fixing the problem for us farmers.” Farmers at Ebby’s are trying to stress the importance of minimizing water in support of farms and growing seasons to come.
The drought is over, but pressures of water shortage continue to heighten. As for now, Wood advises the community that, “the longer we are able to store water, the more prepared we are for future years.”