Saturday, January 28, 2023     Volume: 23, Issue: 48

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on January 18th, 2023, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 23, Issue 47 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 23, Issue 47

Jameson, Gibraltar, and Cachuma reservoirs reach capacity

By Taylor O'Connor

Cachuma, Gibraltar, and Jameson reservoirs hitting their capacity levels for the first time in years is a silver lining amid the damage from recent storms, Santa Barbara County Water Agency Manager Matt Young told the Sun.

“Having most of our major surface waters full is an incredible benefit to the agencies and people that rely on them,” Young said. “Now that we’re full, it takes a lot of strain off those agencies and homeowners to conserve water. Although we do encourage water conservation, you may see some of those agencies begin to step back on some of those measures.” 

This graph depicts Cachuma’s rapid water rise, with levels now sitting at 743 feet.

As of Jan. 17, Cachuma’s capacity was at 91.8 percent, with water levels at 747 feet of its 753-foot capacity, according to county rainfall data. Jameson went over its capacity, with levels at 101 percent, after it received almost 14 inches of rain and filled the reservoir’s 2,224-foot capacity. Almost 35 inches of rain hit the Gibraltar Reservoir and filled it to 1,400 feet, with its capacity at 1,402 feet.

“It’s still early in the winter. January, February, and March are typically our rainiest months. While we don’t have a storm projected, there’s a chance for more rain to come,” he added. 

So far, the county has received 273 percent of its normal-to-date rainfall, with 182 inches this month, according to rainfall data.

The county has no authority in the decision-making process regarding reservoir outflows—with the city of Santa Barbara overseeing Jameson, the Montecito Water District with Gibraltar, and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management at Cachuma. Those agencies will release water at various increments over time in order to maintain reservoir capacity and reduce the risk of flooding downstream, Young said.  

“County flood control and agencies are going to monitor these reservoirs so they remain full and remain protective of downstream flooding issues,” he said

A spokesperson for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation directed the Sun to its Twitter updates, which said that the bureau is monitoring the reservoir’s conditions “round the clock.” 

“Based on the latest info, releases from Bradbury Dam into the Santa Ynez River will be deferred for four to seven more days. We will continue to provide another update on Jan. 18 unless an earlier announcement is needed,” the tweet stated. 

Despite full lakes and reservoirs, the deluge barely scratched the surface of what’s needed for groundwater basin recovery. Of the 125 wells monitored in the county, 25 wells’ groundwater levels are still at an all time low, and 65 are below normal levels, according to the California Department of Water Resources website. Only one well in the Santa Ynez River Valley Basin reached an all-time high, and four are above normal. 

“It does take, in general, several years to start to recover, and most basins have declined significantly since the beginning of the drought,” Young said. “It depends on the basin, some respond rapidly but others take time. In the central part of the Cuyama basin, for example, we wouldn’t expect recovery because water levels have been low for many years.”

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