SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -

Santa Barbara's most affordable water supplies may be the water now stored at Cachuma Lake and in underground wells.  Without more rain, all other options will be costly.

That report was presented to city officials by Interim Water Resources Manager Joshua Haggmark.

He pointed out, during a month (February) when the city usually has the most rainfall, a 20-precent conservation request was made to all local water users.

"I wish I had better news," said Haggmark about the forecast of low or no rain in the months ahead.  "There is talk about a possible El Nino next year."

He showed the City Council specific data about the water choices they are studying.  They include Cachuma Lake, underground wells, state water, and possibly restarting the desalination plant.  The city is also looking for water supplies where there's a surplus, such as some farming sites with water for sale.

Some of the costs could be five times what the city pays now for Cachuma Lake water.

The city also talked about possible rate increases.  That would depend on supplies, and how well the users conserve.

Single family homes are the biggest water users, and an area where significant savings can take place.

Haggmark urged residents to keep their sprinklers off if they can, following the downpour March 1, which soaked lawns and vegetation.

He also said, the inflow to Gibraltar reservoir from the rain was heavy with silt.

The last storm dropped about eight inches of rain in the back country hills, but Haggmark says that brought Santa Barbara's total up to a projected mark as the third driest year on record.