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Cachuma water crisis may require more immediate conservation and federal help

Urgent solutions for the Cachuma Lake water crisis might include an increase in the conservation level by local customers, a ban on turf watering, and a disaster declaration to get federal help. The lake is down 93 percent from its overall capacity. It was last full in 2011.

The county is now into the sixth year of drought.

Deputy Public Works Director Tom Fayram told County Supervisors, “We had a full Cachuma not long ago. Now we are really struggling to get water through and Cachuma is such an important element that we have to restructure how we take water out of that lake so we don’t have these problems in the future. “

Water agencies using Cachuma water are being asked to continue to understand the dire need and encourage more cutbacks in use.

About 35-40 percent is the reduction level by users from 2013. Supervisor Janet Wolf says conservation should now up up to 75 percent because of the pictures she has seen of a nearly empty lake.

Water inflow is still coming from state water purchases and other deals. The use, however, is still too much to keep the lake from going down.

Some refer to the next stage as the “dead pool” where the water would not be piped out for drinking. Others soften the term and say it is a “minimum pool.” Efforts are underway to keep the lake level at least where it is today.

Santa Barbara Water Resources Manager Joshua Haggmark says the ocean water desalination plant coming on line in January will help but it will not be a full answer. He says there’s talk of asking for a federal disaster declaration to help water agencies and customers get through the worsen drought, which has included higher rates.

Ahead he sees strict recommendations for water customers that would include, “no outdoor watering of turf grass. We are working on that. I expect some clear direction by December.”

The agencies agreed more public information, and TV commercials are necessary to keep the critical issue in front of water customers.

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