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Water Worry: Gibraltar Dam Empty and Cachuma Lake Now Down to 44 Percent

Coming off – what experts say is the driest winter on record in Santa Barbara County, water officials are watching the skies hoping storms return to replenish the disappearing water supplies.

Santa Barbara County Hydrology numbers tell a story that worries residents and water district leaders alike.

Gibraltar Dam is empty and Lake Cachuma is now down to 44 percent of its capacity.

It was full in 2011. In the past, that meant a six year supply of water for the South Coast districts in Goleta, Santa Barbara, Montecito and Carpinteria along with downstream users in Buellton, Solvang and Lompoc.

Now it is apparently a four year supply. With the latest drought conditions, the remaining water will be gone in two years without solid rain storms.

Deputy Public Works Director Tom Fayram says right now Lake Cachuma is at its third lowest level since the dam was built in the late 1950’s.

But he recalls the drought 23 years ago and remains calm saying, “as bad as Cachuma is now, we have other supplies that we didn’t have in the 1990-91 period.”

That includes a hook up to the state water pipeline through a coastal aqueduct connection.

“The risk comes if we don’t get rain in the next year or two. They we will have some real risk with our water supply,” said Fayram.

Commuters on San Marcos Pass have noticed the lake level dropping drastically lately.

“When you drive by it really looks horrible there,” says resident Rich Negler. He thinks more conservation efforts should be called for now, and not after another dry winter. He also says, however, he’s noticed water rates going up.

Rancher Judie Dietemhofer says she has seen the water levels dropping and wonders, “where is it all going. I am really sad about it.”

Slideshow: Gibraltar Dam Empty and Cachuma Lake Now Down to 44 Percent

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