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With the uncertainties surrounding the drought and Santa Barbara County's water resources, the Solvang City Council decided Monday to prioritize its long-term water sustainability.

The direction to staff includes upgrades to existing wells, and much needed repair work to a reservoir which could extend its life by up to 20 years. The total investment exceeds $3.3 million. 

Well 22, located along the west side of Alamo Pintado Creek, needs a new pump and motor, along with disinfection equipment, according to Public Works Director Matt van der Linden. The $1.3 million the council set aside during the meeting will pay for that and could bring the well online in two years.

The council also directed city staff to put $1.7 million aside for Well 23, which could be brought into service in five years.

The two additions to Solvang’s water system, could provide the city with a total of seven wells in the next five years, provided all goes as planned.

Solvang relies heavily on its own groundwater for its needs.

In 2016, the city is expected to get more than half, or 55 percent of its water from its own resources, the rest from the state, van der Linden said.

The city council also directed staff to pursue repair work to Reservoir 2, also known as the Chalk Hill Reservoir, and which has a capacity for 423,000 gallons.

Staff gave the council some options on the reservoir, including a quick fix which would cost $20,000, but only extend the life for five years. After that, the council would likely have to replace the reservoir entirely.

The council also had the option to spend $1.85 million to immediately build a new reservoir with a 50-year life span which would include an additional 327,000 gallons of storage.

But the council opted for a more robust repair at a cost of $310,000, which will extend the anticipated lifespan of the reservoir by 20 years.

“Pushing this thing out 20 years isn’t a bad option,” Councilman Neill Zimmerman said. “We can buy 20 years time, only $300,000, compared to the $1.8 (million), take the remaining $1.5 (million) and drill the wells, and then we know we have water to store.”

The prioritization of its own water supplies comes at a difficult time as the ongoing drought stretches into its fifth year, severely impacting local water resources.

The county’s largest reservoir, Cachuma Lake, could be completely dry at the end of the year, according to county officials.

A weaker El Nino than anticipated also impacted the system.

In related action, the council decided to continue conversations with the Santa Ynez River Water Conservation District, Improvement District No. 1, over the possible merger between the two agencies.

Councilman Ed Skytt gave a report of a recent ad hoc committee meeting he attended with Buellton council members over a possible partnership when it comes to library staffing.

Skytt said there was still some distance between the two sides, but expressed hopes that some compromise would be reached at subsequent meetings.

The council is scheduled to meet again on May 23.

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Kenny Lindberg covers Santa Barbara County for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter