A view from Elings Park toward the Goleta foothills at sunset.
Looking to the future, my goals are clear:
We must get through the current drought and prepare for a drier climate future that is unlike what we have known in the past.
This means the District must take the opportunity to develop sustainable, financially sensible, supplemental new water sources to reduce our dependence on Lake Cachuma and iffy State Water.
That's why I'm very excited about our current study of Stormwater Catchment. This is a process that would allow us to capture excess stormwater coming down creeks from the foothills and add it to our supply in the groundwater basin instead of seeing it run off into the ocean. It gives us an opportunity to work with our colleagues at the County of Santa Barbara and perhaps create a template for other water agencies in our region for their own basins. The possibility of increasingly rare but very intense storms makes this a promising way to adapt to a new climate reality.
I am also supportive of the District's Advanced Recycled Water Treatment Feasibility Study. This study, funded with seed money from the State, will help us determine the logical next steps in considering this very high quality supplemental source, whether for groundwater replenishment, agricultural use or augmented drinking water potable use. I've visited demonstration facilities in other parts of California and think there is promise in the process and great value in engaging the community every step of the way.
The District's staff and board have learned an incredible amount from the current drought. We are now able to modify financial and water supply plans, operational methodologies, even the way we reach out to customers, based not on hypotheticals but upon what we've actually experienced. And we're well positioned to go after---and get---valuable state and federal funding for our vital, forward-looking projects. All of this makes us better equipped to deal with whatever climate future is to come.
We will also have to be sure that our community, and the land-use planning agencies in it (City Council, Board of Supervisors, University Regents, for example) understand that there is a new normal that applies to how they use the water supply. The District does not make those land use decisions. In fact, for a summary of the role the District does and does NOT play when land use agencies make their development decisions, click here.
To me, a sensible response to grave climate challenges is the ongoing commitment to conservation that the Goleta Valley community has demonstrated for decades. Our community has been and continues to be a champion of water conservation and that has extended the water supply for everyone here. Every household that has put in a grey water system, or has a bucket in the shower, is reaping the benefit of that effort.
A rainy winter or two will absolutely not mean an end to the current drought or a return to a type of climate we might recall from the good old days of not too long ago. Water districts and communities which misunderstand that will, I believe, find themselves in dire shape going forward.
The Goleta Water District is preparing for the future and I am eager to continue contributing to this critically important work. - ---Lauren Hanson
Photo by Lauren Hanson for Goleta Water Board 2016.