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Santa Barbara County Water Supply Vanishing Due to Drought

The reservoir serving much of Santa Barbara County reached a record low this summer and could continue to disappear with a dry winter. The 3,000 acre reservoir, Lake Cachuma (see above photos in “before” and “after” shots), holds Santa Barbara County’s drinking water and reached an all-time low this summer when it hit only seven percent capacity. As the lake continues to shrink, almost a half-million residents will be affected. Not withstanding any massive snows or rains in the coming months, the depth is expected to be too low to distribute water by January.

The entire Santa Ynez Valley faces a future without water, as the reservoir supplies half of what the valley needs to recharge an underground aquifer that nearly every household, business, and farm uses to pump water. Because of this, nearby communities are making plans to locate substitute water sources. The cities of Solvang and Buellton are currently making plans to tap alternative water sources. Meanwhile, Montecito is attempting to buy water from whatever state and private vendors can provide. On the other hand, Santa Barbara is considering banning outdoor water use while it rushes to open a desalination plant, which will convert Pacific Ocean saltwater into drinking water at a rate of 3 million gallons per day.

While these communities are taking action to deal with the worst-case scenario, barring a winter miracle, there will be no water available next year from the reservoir.