Development and Water


Q: Who approves development projects and what is the Goleta Water District’s role?
A: Development is approved by agencies given land use authority under the State Constitution, including the City of Goleta and the County of Santa Barbara. The District has no land use authority and does not approve projects or determine whether or not a project will have adverse impacts on the community. The District’s role is limited to issuing water allocations. Any project requesting new or additional water is reviewed on an individual basis.

Q: Is the District making new water allocations?
A: Yes, the District began accepting applications for new water allocations starting January 1, 2024. Under the SAFE ordinance, the District may issue up to one percent of its total potable water supply to new or additional service connections (approximately 155 acre-feet per year). The District must re-evaluate its supplies every year to determine if it can continue to issue new allocations. Please see the New Water Allocations page for more information.

Q: What is the SAFE Ordinance?
A: In 1991, Goleta Valley voters approved the SAFE Water Supplies Ordinance. The SAFE Ordinance prohibits the District from releasing potable water to for new or additional service connections except when all of the following conditions are met:

  • The District is receiving 100% of its deliveries normally allowed from Cachuma
  • The District has met legal obligations in the Wright Judgment that governs the Goleta Groundwater Basin
  • There is no water rationing
  • The District has met its obligation to the Annual Storage Commitment to the Drought Buffer

The conditions of SAFE were not met from October 1, 2014, when the District stopped offering new water allocations, until new allocations resumed on January 1, 2024.  During that time, any new development occurred on parcels with existing water credits or historic entitlements approved before October 1, 2014.

Q: Is there a waiting list for new water allocations/meters?
A: No. Projects request new water allocations on a first come first serve basis.

Q: If water is not allocated in one year, does it roll over cumulatively to the next year?
A: No. The SAFE Ordinance authorizes the District to release a maximum of 1% of its annual total available supply for new water connections for that year.

Q: How much water will new development use if approved? 
A: Many new developments are multi-family housing units with mainly indoor water usage and shared low water use outdoor landscaping. New housing is not projected to materially increase water use, largely as a result of plumbing code changes, improved efficiencies, and water wise landscaping. The average multi-family residential unit uses approximately 0.15 acre-feet per year per unit, which equates to about a quarter of the average usage for a single family residence.

Q: How does the District plan for future growth? 
A: The District has an extensive water supply planning process, including water management plans (available in the Documents section of the District’s website) and water supply assessments submitted to the state annually. Additionally, the state-required Urban Water Management Plan requires the District to perform an in-depth water supply and demand analysis every five years and illustrate that its projected supplies are sufficient to meet projected new demand, including projected population growth and proposed development. The District’s Urban Water Management Plan estimates water demand based upon full buildout and population growth through 2045.