Optimal Groundwater Sustainability, Santa Barbara, California

Science Center Objects

Prior to 1997, local surface water and groundwater supplied all of the water supply for the city of Santa Barbara (about 120 miles northwest of Los Angeles). Excess pumping of groundwater during times of drought resulted in saltwater intrusion in Storage Unit I of the Santa Barbara groundwater basin. 

Location and general features of the Santa Barbara and the Foothill groundwater basins, Santa Barbara, California.

Location and general features of the Santa Barbara and the Foothill groundwater basins, Santa Barbara, California.

Since 1997, State Water Project (SWP) water has been delivered to the city, which has reduced the demand for groundwater. However, future urban growth, limits on the supply of imported water, and the decreased storage capacity of Gibraltar Reservoir due to sedimentation will increase the future demand for groundwater, especially during times of drought. There is a need to readily update the potential yield of the local groundwater basins in order to optimally utilize the available water resources during periods of drought.

The objectives of this study are to: (1) understand the dynamic sustainability of the groundwater system; (2) develop tools that will continually update information regarding the city’s sustainable groundwater supply; and (3) identify optimal water-resource management strategies.

This study will consist of four phases: (1) estimate the current (2010) sustainable yield of the Santa Barbara groundwater basins; (2) estimate the future sustainable yield of the groundwater basins; (3) develop empirical decision rules to evaluate the current state of the groundwater basins; and (4) present the results in an interpretive report(s).