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Montecito District Board Supports Terms for Water Sales Agreement with Santa Barbara

Noozhawk released the following article on January 28, 2019.

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Montecito District Board Supports Terms for Water Sales Agreement with Santa Barbara

MONTECITO -- Terms were revealed this week for a developing water sales agreement between the Montecito Water District and City of Santa Barbara. 

The water district Board of Directors voted unanimously Monday to proceed with the development of a long-term water supply agreement to buy water from Santa Barbara’s Charles E. Meyer Desalination Plant at 525 E. Yanonali St., which started producing water in mid-2017. 

The current terms, which staff backed as agreeable, represent a step toward a stable water supply security in Montecito, said water board member Tobe Plough.

“This move that we are making today is the first step towards creating the reliability of water in Montecito,” said Plough, noting that the district has set a goal of increasing local, drought-proof water supplies to 85 percent of total supplies by the year 2025. “If we can develop sources here — desalination and recycled water — it makes a tremendous difference in reliability.”

The 50-year water sales agreement provides 1,430 acre-feet of water a year to Montecito, at a cost of about $2,700 per acre-foot. The terms of agreement allow for the possibility to purchase and receive 445 acre-feet of additional water each year.

Santa Barbara and Montecito have been talking about partnering on the desalination facility for years, since before the plant was producing potable water.

The desalination plant produces 3,125 acre-feet of water annually and Santa Barbara could expand the plant to increase production to the permitted capacity of 10,000 acre-feet of water a year, according to the city.

The production capacity of the desalination plant must be increased to 5,000 acre-feet of water annually to sell to Montecito, said Montecito Water District consultant David Moore of Clean Energy Capital.

Santa Barbara also must install a conveyance pipeline to move desalinated water from the plant to the Cater Water Treatment Plant on San Roque Road, where it can use the South Coast Conduit — the South Coast's main water artery — to be delivered to Montecito. 

As part of the necessary expansion, Santa Barbara will have to build a fourth reverse osmosis skid to produce more water, Moore said.

“This deal looks reasonably attractive if the fourth train (skid) is in place,” said board member Ken Coates, adding that he “understands that the city intends to build the fourth train, but is not committed.”

Montecito and Santa Barbra seek to execute the water supply agreement in June, said Nick Turner, general manager of the Montecito Water District.

Santa Barbara will begin delivering water to Montecito in January 2021, according to the water supply agreement. The rate impact for Montecito customers is yet to be determined, according to the district. 

“Within the next couple of months, we will have a good feel for the impact of what the rates are going to be,” Turner said. “We will certainly be having public meetings to share the status of the water supply agreement and what the rates are looking like.”

Board President Floyd Wicks expressed support for the negotiated terms.

“We are putting together a plan that makes sense for the community,” Wicks said. “We want to have water that’s here, so that we can rely on it... 85 percent of our supply will not be dependent on rainfall.”

Montecito gets most of its water supplies from surface water, including Lake Cachuma, the State Water Project, Jameson Reservoir and Doulton Tunnel, as well as groundwater pumping and imported purchased water. 

The Santa Barbara City Council is expected to review the terms of the agreement on Tuesday afternoon. 

Staff is expected to draft a water sales agreement to be brought back for consideration and potential approval, if the terms are supported by both agencies.

The Montecito meeting, which drew a standing-room-only crowd, was held at the Montecito Fire Protection District and lasted more than two hours.

Among the attendees was Santa Barbara's Water Resources Manager, Joshua Haggmark. 

About Montecito Water District

Montecito Water District's mission is to provide an adequate and reliable supply of high quality water to the residents of Montecito and Summerland, at the most reasonable cost. In carrying out this mission, the District places particular emphasis on providing outstanding customer service, conducting its operations in an environmentally sensitive manner, and working cooperatively with other agencies.

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Clean Energy Capital serves as Financial Advisor to Montecito Water District.

David Moore