SANTA MARIA, Calif. - The U.S. Drought Monitor says Santa Maria has been in "exceptional drought" conditions since February and is on a list of metropolitan areas in California now prone to crop failure, water shortages and other water emergencies..
The City of Santa Maria says the Drought Monitor survey is fundamentally flawed.
"I was shocked quite frankly", says Santa Maria Utilities Director Rick Sweet about Santa Maria making the Drought Monitor list, "the reporting seemed available to grab headlines and not necessarily reveal factual information of any use."
"They talk about farm fields going fallow, I haven't seen any farm fields going fallow in this area", Sweet says, "I think agriculture is doing well here and that's all based on the robust situation in the groundwater basin."
Sweet says while Santa Maria, like the rest of the Central Coast and California are in "extreme" drought conditions, the Santa Maria Groundwater Basin is in good shape with plenty of water to see the area through the drought.
"Drought conditions and water supply are significantly different issues", Sweet says, "in California, because we have had a series of drought conditions over the years, we've built water supply based on our ability to store water and in this case our water is stored in the Santa Maria Valley Groundwater Basin, so we draw on those water supplies during times of drought, so while yes we're in an extreme drought condition, our water supply is still very robust because of the state of the groundwater basin."
Sweet says despite zero shipments from the State Water Project for 2014, Santa Maria still received imported water from the statewide system that it had "banked" and continues to draw on State Water it has accumulated over the past several years that is stored in the basin.
"We're still continuing to import some water, we are drawing on the water that we have imported into the basin over the years and our water supply remains robust", Sweet says.
Sweet says the city is starting to get complaints from residents about neighbors or other people wasting water.
"We always encourage people to conserve water, water is a precious resource, and the citizens of Santa Maria are conserving water in the 20 to 25 percent range compared to last year at this time", Sweet says, "we already had a pretty low useage in terms of gallons per capita per day which is how you measure water per person, but our citizens are actually stepping up and conserving even more."
Sweet says the city monitors water useage.
"The majority of our water meters are on a system that meters every hour electronically", Sweet says, "so if for instance we see that somebody is using a great deal of water, 24 hours a day, that may lead us to the conclusion that there is a leak in their system, and when that happens, and we notice that, then we will notify people that there might an issue with their system and ask them to take a look at it."