A Water Crisis on the Central Coast

Let’s turn it over to Jennifer Medina, a national correspondent based in Los Angeles, for today’s introduction.

Where will the water come from?

We’re entering the wet time of year, but the drought continues to transform communities around the state. And now, Santa Barbara is almost out.

Lake Cachuma, the county’s primary source of water for years, is at 7 percent of its capacity and is expected to go totally dry by the end of the year.

So while state regulators have lifted the statewide mandatory 25 percent cut in water usage, Santa Barbara officials are cracking down. Beginning Jan. 1, the city will ban all residential lawn watering.
“Things just continue to get worse,” said Joshua Haggmark, water resources manager for the city of Santa Barbara. “This has been so much worse than anything we’ve experienced in the past.”
The lawn-watering ban is expected to help the city bring its water conservation rate up to 40 percent, compared to 2012. But Mr. Haggmark is bracing for more. He recently met with the officials from the state’s Office of Emergency Services to see what the state can do to help.

“This has been the driest five years on records and this month we will be out of any water that was captured in the lake,” he said.

The city can get about 30 percent of the water it needs by importing water from other parts of the state, but that is often unpredictable because of the byzantine process that water is allocated throughout the region.

But beginning in March, the city will largely rely on the nearby ocean. The water will be pumped from the ocean through pipes and filtration systems for desalination before hitting the faucets in homes.

Still, Mr. Haggmark said there was not enough water to get by without cutting more.

So far, residents have gone along with the calls for extreme conservation. Most lawns in town are already brown and some homeowners skip showers in favor of watering, Mr. Haggmark said.

The city will continue using recycled water for grass in local schools and parks, he said.

“You can’t be out there playing on dirt, so there are places for grass, it just doesn’t belong in people’s front yard,” Mr. Haggmark said. “It’s an old-school landscaping tool that doesn’t have a place here anymore.”

Source : www.nytimes.com/2016/12/22/us/california-today-drought-water-santa-barbara.html

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