SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - Lake Cachuma is down to 7.5 percent capacity, one of the lowest levels on record.
If the water level continues to decrease, Lake Cachuma water will no longer be available for delivery or considered a water supply. The lake will effectively become what's called a deadpool.
"The deadpool, which we prefer to call a "minimum pool" is an amount of water that is maintained in order to make sure state water is conveyed through the lake to the barge to provide the South Coast with its water. So there is a certain level that's needed to maintain that connection," said Fray Crease, manager for the Santa Barbara County Water Agency. "It is defined as, water is not deliverable. So it's used for other purposes besides delivery and that is the conveyance of state water, the park use and the habitat."
The lake took another hit this summer when a controlled release to downstream users in the Santa Ynez valley dropped lake levels a few thousand acre-feet more than anticipated.
"The downstream releases occur yearly, during the summer. The one that just occurred on the first of September is a normal release that the downstream users have rights to that water," said Crease. "This year, because of the level of the lake, my understanding is that they were allowed to take a little more release that they would normally accrue to next years release. But, the potential for the lake to remain low, depending on how our winter shapes up, is those downstream users were allowed to take those releases in anticipation of perhaps not being able to accrue enough water for this coming year for a release next summer."
County officials are urging residents to keep conserving water, as local water agencies find other water sources.
"All the water purveyors that rely on Cachuma have certain drought stages they've implemented for their customers. There may be more cutbacks coming," Crease said.