Photo by David Grannis

A documentary on California’s historic drought produced by a South Coast college professor and his students will be screened this week.

The film “Turf Wars: SoCal Water Conservation” takes a deep look into the state’s severe drought and its impacts.  It was created by a film professor and his two students at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks. 

Karie Portillo Guerra, who was a student when she helped create the film, says it was eye-opening to see the devastation in Central Valley towns that had pumped their groundwater dry.

Despite California's rainy winter season, the city of Santa Barbara is planning water agreements and policies in case the drought is not over.

This area of the state was one of the last to remain in drought conditions, even though it's doing much better now than it was a year ago.

The drought has led to the creation of a unique type of water exchange on the South Coast which may ultimately encourage conservation,

It’s a water market, which will allow farmers, and potentially other water users in parts of Ventura County to buy and sell groundwater.

A water conservation district on the South Coast is taking advantage of Northern California’s heavy rainfall this season to lock up some state water project water.

The United Water Conservation District reached a deal to buy a guaranteed 5,000 acre feet of water, and to get another 5,000 acre feet if available. The water would be used to recharge the District’s water basins in Western Ventura County and the Santa Clara River Valley.

For the first time in nearly a decade, a hydroelectric power plant on the South Coast is generating electricity.

Thanks to recent rainfall, water flowing through Gibraltar Reservoir is not only helping to meet the City of Santa Barbara’s water needs, it’s creating electricity.

A creek which flows into drought stricken Lake Casitas is full, sending a torrent of water into the important water source for part of Ventura County.

While the flow of water is impressive, as you head to the lake itself, it’s shocking to see how much it’s shrunk. It’s down by more than 60%.

Ron Merckling, with the Casitas Municipal Water District, says that while drought conditions have eased for most of the state, the crisis continues for much of Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties. He says Lake Casitas, Lake Cachuma, and Lake Piru have seen little relief from the drought.

The Gibraltar Dam behind Santa Barbara has reached its limit and is full after the intense storms that passed through in the last week.

A month ago, it was at an unusable level.

After 5 years of drought,  the residents of La Conchita are seeing more rain than the area has soaked up in a long time.

La Conchita, which is off of Highway 101 south of Carpinteria, had major landslides in 1995 and 2005.

Ten people died in the 2005 slide.

Many campers, residents and workers in the Paradise Road stretch of the Santa Ynez Valley are buzzing over the new flow of water in the Santa Ynez River.

Several crossings are closed to people and vehicles, as the river comes alive with more than eight days of rain this month.

A desalination plant in Santa Barbara originally estimated to cost $55 million dollars is facing new financial issues.

The city will hear a report Tuesday from water officials, who say approximately $10 million more will be needed.

The total project cost could near $70 million.

Even once it rains, drought-related issues will not be going away any time soon.

That was the conclusion that state water resources officials and emergency leaders came to in Santa Barbara on Monday.

The drought has prompted one South Coast City to adopt a total ban on lawn watering.

Santa Barbara residents will have to turn off their lawn sprinklers, and keep them off starting January first. There are some exceptions for things like trees, gardens, and shrubs, as well as for what are known as water-wise grasses. Fields used for recreation are exempted, as are golf greens.

City officials say even though they’ve obtained more state water, Santa Barbara no longer has reserves or a buffer next year, so further cuts in consumption are essential.

Santa Barbara's planned desalination plant has moved into the final phase of construction, which will involve offshore work.

On the beach, long stretches of green fence encircle the work areas and block off the heavy equipment.

(NASA Photo)

El Nino was a boom for Northern California, and a bust for Southern California during the last year. Now, some experts say as we approach what should be our rainy season, we appear to be poised on the Central and South Coasts for another year of record drought.

Dr. Bill Patzert is an oceanographer with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. He says there are growing signs of a La Nina pattern developing, which can set the stage for less than average rainfall for the state.

With no forecasted significant rain ahead, Santa Barbara County officials have been told to consider declaring Cachuma Lake a disaster area.

The lake is 93% empty and close to a minimum pool area, which officials say is a point where water becomes unfit to drink.

The Santa Barbara water supply now includes pumping from seven groundwater wells.

Those wells have been checked and, in some cases, upgraded in recent years to make sure they remain operational over the course of California's drought.

(Santa Barbara County Fire Photo)

Normally, a large concrete structure is not a big source of worry during a fire.

That's different for the Rey Fire in the Santa Ynez Valley, which is now is threatening the Gibraltar dam site behind Santa Barbara.

(Photo by John Palminteri)

The City of Santa Barbara is working on a waterfront pipeline project to bring ocean water to an under-construction desalination plant.

Green fencing is up over a large area, and heavy equipment has moved in for a digging project on the beach at Chase Palm Park east of Stearn's Wharf.

The Montecito Country Club is getting a new look as part of $40 million makeover.

With the South Coast in a drought, however, the rollout of grass and the visible sprinkler system has caught the attention of passersby.

Santa Barbara's long awaited desalination plant, in the planning stages for months, will not open in October as scheduled.

Due to soil contamination issues and technical problems at the Yanonali Street site, the water may not flow until late December.

The most recent water report in Santa Barbara shows what's been called a healthy reserve of water.

That's due in part to the rain from Northern California, and purchases made to store that critical water in a central coast reservoir.

The lack of rain in combination with stress on trees in the Montecito Fire District is creating more issues than just a fire danger.

A new Santa Barbara County Grand Jury report says that one of the county’s key water sources is unrealistic in its water allocations.

Lake Cachuma is a key water source for a quarter of a million people and more than 300,000 acres of agriculture in the county. The report says when the lake was created in the mid-1950’s, it was intended to keep the region supplied with water during a drought for six to seven years. But, it says in year five of the current drought, it’s dangerously low.

A water district which serves much of Western Ventura County has announced that as a result of the fifth straight year of well below average rainfall, it is imposing a number of drought restrictions.

The Casitas Municipal Water District is reporting that its primary water source, Lake Casitas, is at its lowest level since 1968. By the end of the year, the lake is expected to be at only about 30% of capacity. Unlike many Southern California water districts, Casitas doesn’t get any state water, and relies on local sources.

With El Nino failing to produce the blockbuster rain many had hoped for this year, local water agencies are trying to nail down exactly how their customers will be impacted this summer and fall.

Heavy rain and snowfall in Northern California will help some Central and South Coast districts which get state water, while other districts dependent on local sources face yet more shortfalls.

The Carpinteria Valley Water District is working with the sanitary district and the city to develop a plan to treat waste water before it heads into the sanitary district.

The water would then be injected into underground wells.

Many people thought it was going to help ease the drought, but for the Central and South Coasts, El Nino has turned out to be a disappointment. As the days pass by, many climatologists say the possibility that we’ll see more badly needed rainfall from El Nino fueled storms is diminishing.

(Photo by John Palminteri)

The environmental watchdog group Santa Barbara Channelkeeper is asking the Santa Barbara City Council to come up with a more environmentally sound way to draw water from the ocean.

The water would be drawn through a piping system and into a desalination plant that is scheduled to start operating again later this year.

There's been a big water loss in one South Coast district at a time when every drop is needed.

In an extreme drought, to see 50,000 gallons of water go down the drain is upsetting for everyone, especially officials with the Montecito Water District.

It happened Sunday night in a truck accident.

The vehicle sheared off a hydrant on Sheffield Drive at Birnham Wood.

California's drought is prompting all kinds of approaches to conserving water on the Central and South Coasts.

One of the most high-tech is a plant in Ventura County.

The plant saves millions of gallons of drinking water a day by purifying wastewater into water so clean it can be used for agriculture.