MWD Board Meeting

During the public comment portion of the Montecito Water District Board meeting on May 20, resident David Strauss shared his concern over several large up-and-coming projects that he says may affect the District’s water supply. “Two of the biggest projects that we’ll ever see in our lifetime: the Westmont project on 100 acres, which is bigger than the La Cumbre Shopping Plaza, and that’s going to use more water no matter how much they conserve or you charge, and the Miramar project, which is one of the densest projects to come along…. Water usage is a concern of the public of how everybody saving a little bit of water is going to make up for that mega usage coming down the line,” he said.

Tom Mosby, General Manager of MWD responded, “What Westmont is doing is that they have a spring source of water, which they are actually approving building a reservoir for, so for the majority of their outdoor irrigation they’re now going to improve their private water system. They are taking out a lot of their old irrigation systems; they are taking out all the pine trees on the property, all those plants that are native, it’s all being removed, so they are actually reducing their water use exteriorly.” He added that even so, Westmont will be increasing its total water use, and he said he is working very closely with the school. As far as the Miramar, he told Strauss and the Board he is working very closely with that project as well to decrease water usage as much as possible. Mosby mentioned to us later that Ordinance 89 encourages people building new projects to design it so it minimizes outdoor water use.

“There is a potential that we could be facing a 25% deficit in water supply to meet current demand levels,” Mosby said to the Board, “In the event that we cannot locate supplies, we may have to implement restrictions as we’ve done in previous drought periods.” Although “a water shortage emergency” has not yet been declared, Mosby implied that it may be imminent. “Even if there were substantial rainfall this fall, I don’t see you getting state water deliveries that would make you full enough to take care of your current demand. If you don’t find additional water this year to get through 2008, it is a problem. If this year is repeated next year, you already know right now you’ve got a greater problem,” said Chip Wullbrandt, counsel to the Board.

Director Larry Wilson said, “It’s hard for me to accept this with two full dams: Jameson Lake and Lake Cachuma.” Mosby explained that the supply the District is legally allocated from the two lakes is limited. The Gin Chow court ruling in the 1930s restricts MWD from taking more than about 2,000 acre feet from Jameson per year. The Cachuma allocation is 2,651 acre-feet of water. Mosby explained to us after the meeting that the allocation goes down when the level of the lakes goes down. So even though at this point MWD is taking its full allocation, it is still not enough water to service the community because the water acquired from the State is limited. “The state water project gave us 35% of our entitlement in 2008, which is equivalent to 1,155 acre feet,” he said. Adding that to our local sources still does not equal enough to meet the 7,200 acre-feet demand in Montecito he said. On top of that, the State Water Project is expecting to give MWD only 10% of its 3,300 entitlement in the 2009 water year.

Mosby said that Montecito demand levels are significantly higher than what you would see in the City of Santa Barbara, Goleta and Carpinteria. He told us this is because “people do truly love their gardens.” 75%-80% of the water usage goes to outdoor landscaping. “We’re concerned because we’ve spent a lot of time on education and public awareness. A lot of articles have gone out and it seems to have fallen on deaf ears. It’s as if no one is listening!” Mosby lamented at the board meeting.

“We want a full analysis and a plan,” said Director Douglas Morgan when asked if he was prepared in the future to declare a state of emergency. “I need a lot of information before I’m ready to move,” added Wilson. “I think you’re planning that rain is not going to come,” he said.

“Larry [Wilson],” Mosby interjected, “if we don’t prepare now, and rain doesn’t come, and we have absolutely no water anywhere, are you going to stand up and let the customers know?”

Wilson answered, “Yes, but I need numbers!”

The next MWD Board meeting is scheduled for June 16. See Tom Mosby’s article, On the Waterfront, on page 11 for more information: next week we will have an exclusive report on the proposed water rate increases.

Arbor Day at Cold Spring School

On Wednesday May 14 representatives from Santa Barbara Beautiful presented Cold Spring School fifth-grader Laurelle Tarleton with an award as winner of the Arbor Day Foundation’s Annual Poster Contest. As part of the ceremony, an oak tree was planted in Tarleton’s name on the campus.

Courtney Seeple, President of Santa Barbara Beautiful, Vice President of Public Relations Jacqueline Dyson, and City Arborist Randy Fritz were on hand to congratulate Tarleton for creating the winning poster. “We are very grateful for Cold Spring School’s participation in the program,” Dyson said. Cold Spring Superintendent Bryan McCabe was also present to accept the award.

Santa Barbara Beautiful has sponsored the contest since 2000. Fifth-graders in participating schools across the nation are asked to draw a picture based on a given theme: this year’s was “Trees are terrific…. Inside and out!” Winners are chosen at a school, state and national level and the poster from the state winner is displayed at their state capital. “It is a really wonderful program,” Dyson said.

Seeple told us Santa Barbara Beautiful has recently committed $4,000 to build a trail in front of Cold Spring School on Sycamore Canyon. The non-profit, which has been in existence since 1965, works with city agencies and neighborhood associations to beautify the community. In addition to planting trees at local schools and educating children on the importance of trees, SB Beautiful gives out coveted awards to homeowners nominated by area residents. They also organize tree-planting events and provide information. For more information visit

Milpas Traffic Camera

Confirming what Kirsten Ayars told the Montecito Association’s Board at this month’s meeting, a traffic camera has been installed on Highway 101 at Milpas Street and live footage is now available online. “You can see a live shot of the Milpas area bridges,” she said. The camera has been installed in time for road construction set to begin this summer.

Ayars also told MA that after the second year of construction a second camera will be installed in the Montecito area so residents can check traffic density before heading out on the roads. The Highway 101 Operational Improvements Project is expected to take four years; the Montecito Roundabout is scheduled to be built within the first year of the project. A 10-15 minute delay throughout the construction areas has been estimated by Cal Trans.

To view the live feed from the camera at the 101 and Milpas, visit