Integrated Regional Water Management Plan

About the Program

The effective management of water resources is one of the key challenges facing Santa Barbara County. Water resource planning within the county must address multiple factors, including limited local water supplies, variability of imported supplies, water quality issues, population changes and impacts from development, increasing regulatory requirements, aging infrastructure, the need to protect sensitive species and habitats, the loss of capacity in key reservoirs, existing and changing climatic conditions, and ongoing threats from droughts, floods, fires, and earthquakes.

Water resource managers in the Santa Barbara County region have a long history of working cooperatively to resolve multiple issues related to water and wastewater, including ensuring the adequacy of supplies and services, protecting and improving surface and groundwater quality, and protecting and enhancing ecosystems. Together they have planned and implemented significant water resources projects; developed integrated supplies and delivery systems; managed resources to meet the needs of urban users, agriculture, and ecosystems; and developed adaptive management strategies to respond to changing circumstances. Nonetheless, challenges remain, and the Santa Barbara Countywide Integrated Regional Water Management Plan (IRWMP) is intended to increase the level of coordination among all the agencies and districts responsible for water resources planning, nongovernmental organizations, and interested members of the public to facilitate the optimal management of water resources within the county over the next 20 years. The IRWMP also provides the foundation for grant applications needed to augment limited local financial resources.

The planning framework established by the IRWMP will be modified as needed to respond to changing conditions, including regulatory requirements, and will increase flexibility and efficiency by integrating multiple aspects of water resources management, such as water quality, local and imported water supplies, watershed protection, wastewater treatment and recycling, and protection of local ecosystems.

The Santa Barbara Countywide IRWMP will help implement these planning efforts by developing an appropriate mix of resource management strategies and projects based on water management objectives and priorities that are specific to Santa Barbara County.

The IRWMP has been prepared by a broadly based group, referred to as the "Cooperating Partners." The Cooperating Partners consist of 29 water districts, sanitary districts, community service districts, water conservation districts, private water companies, cities (large, medium, and small), Santa Barbara County, and joint powers agencies. COMB is a partner in this collaborative process.