SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The City of Santa Barbara is once again starting to pump water from its wells.
The two groundwater basins will supplement the water supply -- but at a cost.
At the city corporation yard, the newest well is nearly complete. When it's done, it will help ease water woes. But it will cost around $2 million just to get one well up and running.
"To drill a 700-foot well in Santa Barbara was about $1 million for just the hole," said Joshua Haggmark, the acting Water Resources manager.
The locations of the four downtown wells might surprise residents. People pass by them every day without a second thought.
There is a well at Plaza De Vera Cruz on East Cota Street, right behind the park sign.
"It's been here 20 to 30 years," said Haggmark.
Another well is in the City Hall parking lot.
Each well funnels to the Ortega Water Treatment Plant, which then provides water to mostly the downtown area. It can process up to 10 million gallons of water a day.
"The water that actually has to go through this treatment plant is pretty expensive water. I'd say that outside of recycled or desal, it's probably the next most expensive. Probably in the $700 to $800 an acre foot range. Where our surface water is probably in the $100 an acre foot range," said Haggmark.
It is pricey but the wells have historically been used to help out during a drought. Now they are making a comeback.
The two basins have enough water supply for one year, but that's is the city runs them dry -- which won't happen. But the Water Resources Department will increase the amount it pumps from 10 percent to up to 40 percent of the city's water supply by the fall.
Residents might be able to tell the difference now that the wells are running, like detect a slight sulfur smell from the water.
"You shouldn't be concerned. It's completely fine to drink. That's just part of the natural ground water that we have here and you'll be seeing that over the next, however long the drought lasts," said Haggmark.Slideshow: Santa Barbara Taps Into Wells To Help Drought