State water is once again flowing into Cachuma Lake and out to Santa Barbara County’s South Coast residents after an 18-day lapse.
The Central Coast Water Authority resumed pumping state water reserves into the parched reservoir April 22 after the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation ordered the CCWA to stop all deliveries April 4. The federal bureau commandeered the CCWA’s pumping facilities after one of the bureau’s two pumps stopped operating, halting mandated water deliveries to Hilton Creek that benefit the area’s endangered steelhead trout.
Without knowing when it could begin pumping again, the CCWA spent $35,000 to construct a temporary bypass pumping project to restart South County deliveries. Rental costs will continue to cost the CCWA $3,000 a month.
“It’s vitally important to resume deliveries to the lake for the benefit of our South Coast project participants as soon as possible,” said CCWA Executive Director Ray Stokes. “And so we initiated this project immediately after receiving the notice from the bureau.”
Prior to April 4, the CCWA had been pumping 50 acre-feet, or 16.3 million gallons, of state water into Cachuma Lake daily from the 13,648 acre-feet of state water carried over from 2013. This reserve now sits at 9,000 acre-feet, with each acre-foot able to support a four person household for one year.
This carried-over reserve became vital after the State Water Project, which delivers water from rivers in Northern California to 25 million Californians, stopped all deliveries earlier this year as the state’s drought conditions worsened. However, beginning Sept. 1, the CCWA will begin getting 5 percent, or 2,274 acre-feet, of the original 45,468 acre-feet of state water the agency requested for 2014.
Cachuma Lake has long supplied the Goleta Water District, city of Santa Barbara, Montecito Water District and Carpinteria Valley Water District. However, with the reservoir at 37.8 percent of capacity, state water had been buffering supplies. These water retailers, along with the La Cumbre Mutual Water Co., according to Stokes, are receiving state water after it’s pumped into Cachuma.
Santa Maria and much of North County Santa Barbara rely on state water and ground water rather than flows from Lake Cachuma. In 2012, Santa Maria received 86 percent of its water from the State Water Project, Solvang got 80 percent and Guadalupe and Buellton each received approximately 40 percent.