Water Supply Overview
The County's residents obtain their potable water from several sources: groundwater withdrawal, storm runoff collected in reservoir systems, the State Water Project, recycled water and desalination. The County's potable water supply is delivered to the public through a variety of water purveyors: incorporated cities, community service districts, water districts, private water companies, conservation districts and others.
Groundwater is a primary source of potable water for many County residents. Since groundwater level fluctuations are cyclical and sensitive to overdraft, groundwater withdrawal is closely monitored. Most of the water used in the North County comes from groundwater supplies with the recent addition of State Water as well. Some river water is used in the communities of Santa Ynez, Ballard and Los Olivos.
There are four major reservoirs located in the County of Santa Barbara. Cachuma reservoir is owned and operated by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR), Twitchell reservoir is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and operated by the Santa Maria Valley Water Conservation District, Gibraltar Reservoir is owned and operated by the City of Santa Barbara, and Jameson Reservoir is owned and operated by the Montecito Water District. Water is delivered to the South Coast via three tunnels through the Santa Ynez Mountains.
In 1996, water purveyors in the County began to receive water through the State Water Project. Water is delivered to Santa Barbara County from the Lake Oroville Reservoir located in Plumas County through a series of aqueducts and reservoirs. Since State Water is used primarily as a supplemental supply, the amount received by water purveyors in the County will vary each year.
An additional source of potable water available to the City of Santa Barbara is desalinated water from the ocean. Desalination is the process of removing salt from seawater. Desalination is used in many arid countries around the world to provide a reliable source of drinking water. For communities in semiarid climates, desalinated ocean water provides a water source that is not dependent on rainfall. This gives the community the ability to provide fresh water as a backup for depleted surface water supplies, thereby easing the hardship of drought. As technology advances and other water sources become less available, desalination will become more cost-effective and more communities may turn to this as a viable source of water. For more information on the City of Santa Barbara's desalination plant visit their website.
In addition to potable water supplies, several water purveyors in the county also use non-potable recycled wastewater to irrigate parks, schools, golf courses and other large landscaped areas. The City of Santa Barbara even uses recycled water for toilet flushing in its beach-front restrooms.
To find out where your water comes from, water sources are compiled yearly and are listed alphabetically by area. These charts are for the water purveyor's water sources and do not necessarily coincide precisely with the geographic area of the same name. Water sources can vary considerably for some water purveyors from year to year.
In order to wisely and efficiently use all available water supplies, the Santa Barbara County Water Agency, as well as a number of local water purveyors, operate water demand management programs. These programs, referred to as water conservation or water use efficiency, are directed at helping water users minimize unnecessary use of water during times of plentiful supply and help stretch limited water resources during water shortages. For more information on water conservation programs visit www.WaterWiseSB.org.