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Jun 17, 2014 9:31 PM by Charlie Misra, KSBY News

Santa Ynez Water District faces water shortage

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors met Tuesday to face the issue of water shortages on the Central Coast.

The cities of Santa Maria and Santa Barbara oversee their own supplies, but one district says its water is so low, it's ready to make a historic declaration.

The Santa Ynez Water Conservation District meets Tuesday night to discuss whether to declare a Stage 2 water shortage emergency.

Cachuma Lake is the main source of water for the cities of Santa Ynez, Solvang, Ballard and Los Olivos, a district called I-D 1.

The district manager says by October 1, the water supply at Cachuma will decrease by 55%.

"Our other sources of water are needed to offset those reductions," said Christ Dahlstrom, Santa Ynez Water District general manager. "And for instance, our groundwater basin, or what we call in I-D 1, our uplink groundwater wells. So we rely on those wells to offset any surface water reductions."

Dahlstrom says due to recent regulatory requirements, the district will be restricted from using some of those groundwater wells.

"The main concern that we have is continuing to supply water to our domestic customers and our agricultural customers as well," said Dahlstrom.

Dahlstrom has past experience with severe drought. He was involved in planning and bringing in emergency water service during the 1988-91 drought. He says that drought was even more severe, but now is a critical time to take action.

"The lake got down to a level of just above 25,000 acre feet," said Dahlstrom. "And it's indicated today it's about 69,000 acre feet, so there's still some water supply, but we always forecast out to the next year."

City of Santa Maria management analyst Mark Van de Kamp says water-wise, Santa Maria is in good shape. This is, he says, because the city sits on one of the richest aquifers in California, the Santa Maria Groundwater Basin. The city also doesn't draw water from Cachuma Lake or Twitchell Reservoir.

If the Santa Ynez district declares a water shortage emergency, water service to farmers and ranchers may be interrupted so there's enough water in the district for health and safety purposes.

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