The cost of the drought will soon show up on water bills in Santa Barbara. Rate increases proposed to be on bills starting in July will soon be in place.
The Santa Barbara City Council supported the increases based on use to be enough to fund the proposed ocean water desalination plant and an on going program to replace aging city water mains.
The cost of the increases has been laid out in a city document and will be sent to users in a letter followed up with more information at public meetings and a website.
That information can be found at : http://services.santabarbaraca.gov/CAP/MG122510/AS122514/AS122528/AS122539/AI126508/DO126526/Document.htm
Citizens will have a method to protest the fee increases if they want to, and that is explained in the city’s information.
The recent rains have been encouraging but Water Resources Manager Joshua Haggmark says,” we are better than last year,” when there was a doom and gloom prediction ahead but the region is far from surfacing from the drought.
Cachuma Lake is currently at 28 percent of its capacity and the rain storms so far this season have not created noticeable runoff.
A decision on the desalination plant, estimated at $40 million, will be made in May.
The city has been working with the state on funding options and possible loans. One application had 80 pounds of materials.
Costs for the plant will vary depending on construction, design, and automation. There may also be some cost savings with the electrical design.
Councilmembers were very concerned about the water main system and any deferred work on pipes that should be replaced due to additional water costs and expensive emergency repairs that will occur if the infrastructure is not maintained.
The city is taking action now to provide the public with advanced notice and time for public meetings.
Other water districts are also working on rate reviews and any changes that will be necessary later this year.
Over the next few years, Santa Barbara has proposed a combination of several water supply options, including rainfall, reclaimed, and desalination if necessary, along with a 20 percent overall reduction in use.
The city has an aggressive community education program, with rebates for water savings, and a method for citizens to report water wasters.