SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - A water release has begun from Cachuma Lake downstream in the Santa Ynez River.
About two weeks ago the river was dry.
The release is an annual process. It is requested by the Santa Ynez Valley Water Conservation District.
The water will flow for about two to three months.
Eventually it will reach the Lompoc Valley.
Along the way it will fill underground wells and help farmers manage their water needs.
Water officials say the release dates back to the 1950's when the dam was built and farmers worked out a deal to get a share of the storage capacity as long as it was available.
Cachuma came back to life earlier this year with a wet winter. It did not fill however and currently the level is at 49 percent. Water releases downstream are taking place at the same time water allotments are going to South Coast districts including Santa Barbara, Goleta, Montecito and Carpinteria. State water deliveries are still coming in from agreements that bring Northern California water to the coastal communities via a pipeline and a transfer through Cachuma.
When the water release is over the lake is expected to drop about 10 feet from its current level.
With the river moving now with water, many residents are coming out to cool off from the heat. Some also have their dogs, including Adriana Agate who had her pet Riley up to his ears in river water.
The river banks were not crowded on Monday afternoon.
"Yesterday it was packed with younger kids rafting down starting at Refugio road," said Agate. If we want our private time it's early in the week and early in the day."
Nearby Custodio Campos said the water release was beneficial for many reasons. "To us, recreation and using it to have fun and do what we like is very important because there are very few places to have recreational outdoor activities for the children."