State Water Project, an Important Supplemental Resource

State Water Project photo

State Water is a vital supplemental source of supply, providing our community with added insurance against the impacts of long-term dry periods.  In 1991, following a severe drought, District customers voted to purchase an allotment of imported water from the State Water Project.  The Central Coast Water Authority (CCWA), a California Joint Powers Agency, was formed by its nine public agency members, including the District, to construct the necessary facilities to deliver State Water Project water.  The Coastal Branch facilities were completed and deliveries to Santa Barbara County began in 1997.  Today CCWA operates and maintains these facilities on behalf of its members.

The District is entitled to up to 7,450 AFY of State Water, which includes an additional 2,500 AFY purchased in 1994 to improve reliability and availability in dry years.  The District’s State Water entitlement represents more than 40 percent of the entire South Coast allotment.  State Water deliveries are limited by the annual allocation set by the Department of Water Resources based on the water content of the Sierra snowpack and statewide water availability.  While an average of 3,800 AFY of State Water is available to the District, the District is able to meet customer demands with less than 1,000 AF of State Water under normal conditions. 

Any allocated State Water that the District does not use in a given year is remotely stored for future District use in San Luis Reservoir located in Merced County.  This long-term investment in State Water results in increased flexibility to import water in dry years when we need it most.  This forward-thinking investment is a critical reason why the District can defer the need for extreme water conservation or rationing during prolonged dry periods.  Accordingly, this helps avoid the damaging economic and lifestyle impacts those restrictions can have on our community.