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The following article was posted on January 22nd, 2014, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 46 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 46

Santa Barbara County declares a drought emergency

BY CAMILLIA LANHAM

Santa Barbara County supervisors followed Gov. Jerry Brown’s Jan.17 declaration of a California drought emergency by unanimously ratifying the county’s own drought emergency proclamation at their Jan. 21 meeting.

During the declaration hearing, Tom Fayram, the county’s deputy director of water resources, told supervisors that the county has only had 15 percent of average rainfall so far this season, and it comes after two years of below average rainfall.

He also said that Cachuma Lake reservoir is currently holding 77,000-acre-feet of water or a little less than 40 percent of its capacity. That’s less than a two-year supply of water for the county.

“Deliveries from Lake Cachuma are double of what they were a year ago,” Fayram said. “So we’re going the wrong way on that.”

The declaration means several things. First, the county is asking residents to voluntarily cut back 20 percent of their water usage. Additionally, a county drought task force had its first meeting on Jan. 22. The force is tasked with keeping county emergency measures aligned with what’s happening on the state level. The group will also take steps to get water resources where they need to be and minimize harm from the drought.

Supervisors Salud Carbajal and Janet Wolf expressed concern at the meeting that a purely voluntary effort to reduce water consumption would not be good enough. There are five levels of response to a drought emergency. The first is that voluntary 20 percent reduction of water usage instituted by the county, and the fifth is a mandatory 40 percent reduction.

“We’re in a serious situation that could turn into a critical situation,” Carbajal said.

Supervisor Peter Adam said that while things may look bad right now, the wet season isn’t over yet. He recalled that in 1991, at the tail end of a years-long drought, the “March miracle” delivered rain every day during the month.

“These things happen and they often come on the heels of a dry spot,” Adam said. “While it’s prudent to be talking about emergencies right now, it may be a little premature.”

For tips on how to save water, visit countyofsb.org or waterwisesb.org.