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Lack of rainfall leading to dangerously low water levels

Much of California is under near-drought conditions, thanks to the lack of winter rainfall over the past two years.

In Santa Barbara County, officials with the Water Agency won’t yet call the issue a crisis but admit they’re keeping an eye on water levels at area dams and reserves.

There are two main sources of water for the south coast. Lake Cachuma is the main supply and is around half-full. The Gibraltar Reservoir provides only a secondary resource but is expected to be dry by the end of the summer. That hasn’t happened since the drought of 1991.

“It’s the driest year at Gibralter in 93 years,” Water Agency Manager Matt Naftaly said. “We really have our eyes on next winter and what kinds of inflow we might get.”

County rainfall totals for this fiscal year are at less than half the usual average.

In Montecito, the water shortage possibility is a major issue for the Water District.

“It’s very serious,” said manager of the Montecito Water District, Tom Mosby. “If you look at the last two rainfall years and if you look at the drought period of 1987 to ’91 these last two years are worse.”

The community is being asked to conserve water now so if these dry conditions continue into next year water districts will be better stocked.

Officials say if customers don’t start to conserve, rates could start to go up.

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