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Gibraltar Dam rainfall at record low

After an unusually dry winter, current data shows Gibraltar Dam rainfall levels are at a record low.

So far this water year, only 7.9 inches of rain have been recorded. The previous low was in 2006-07 with 9.24 inches of rain. Prior to that, the lowest level on record was in 1923.

Rainfall totals at Gibraltar have been kept for 93 years.

The normal amount of rain at this reservoir is 26.94 inches.

Santa Barbara County Water Agency Manager Matt Naftaly looks at the big picture and says there’s no reason to panic. “This is a normal fluctuation,” he said.

Lake Cachuma in the Santa Ynez Valley is downstream from Gibraltar, and is the first stop for any runoff when the dam fills and spills. The lake level is also low. It’s 25 feet below the gates at Bradbury Dam which releases toward Solvang, Lompoc and eventually the Pacific Ocean.

Sunday’s storm that just passed through was weak. Less than a half an inch of rain fell. There’s no significant rain in the forecast for the next seven days.

“If we don’t get decent runoff next year we would certainly start to implement things we do for drier conditions,” said Naftaly.

Underground, the water agency says supplies are solid, with no concerns there. That’s a relief for farmers who use that water for irrigation, although they would rather have a few more rain clouds this year.

Overall, Santa Barbara County water levels are 49 percent of normal.

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