By Tamara Rowles

Contributing Writer

The board of the Santa Ynez River Water Conservation Improvement District, ID1, previewed a preliminary budget of about $11.8 million for its 2019-20 fiscal year on May 29.

The proposal for next year represents a 3 percent increase over the current year and will need nearly $750,000 from reserve funds to balance a drop in revenue.

General Manager Chris Dahlstrom gave a detailed presentation to the five board members, including the newly appointed Lori Parker. He also noted recent trends in water services.

Despite rate increases effective February 2017, which were expected to increase revenues, demand for water services dropped nearly 20 percent due to conservation efforts, reduced consumption standards, and rainfall. When the current fiscal year ends on June 30, ID1 predicts a budget shortfall of $746,886, which will be made up with reserve funds.

The preliminary budget for next year is $11,751,494, which much of the 3 percent increase due to State Water Project payments paid to California, Dahlstrom said. 

ID1 also has $24 million in capital improvement projects planned, though many of those projects will need to be deferred because of budgetary constraints. Some projects in progress include the drilling of a well to help meet new state standards for a reduction in hexavalent chromium (Cr6) and mainline valve replacements. 

ID1 also uses its funds to protect groundwater rights under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and contributes to programs and studies related to the Cachuma Project, the Endangered Species Act, and state fisheries.

After the meeting was opened to comments from attendees, local resident France Komoroske said the board should consider either lowering its rates to discourage residents and agricultural landowners from drilling their own wells, or cutting expenses, including staff salaries and legal fees. 

She directed the board’s attention to a $252,158 line item paid to a single outside law firm as an extraordinary expense. Those attorneys’ fees relate to a lawsuit the district filed last year over a decision by Clerk-Recorder-Assessor Joe Holland to restore the names of two board candidates to the ballot after the district tried to remove them.

Komoroske also questioned Dahlstrom’s salary.

Chip Willbrandt, another local resident, asked that ID1 review water rates, because his neighbors in Rancho Estates who obtain their water through a contract with a private water company pay significantly less for water on their 5-acre parcels.

Fred Koval questioned why ID1 must use its own resources to defend water rights for other users, including those with private wells. He asked the board to consider creating a “super water district” that would include Buellton and Lompoc.

The ID1 board is scheduled to approve a final 2019-20 budget at its next meeting on June 18.

ID1 was created in 1959 to deliver water to residential, commercial and agricultural users in the Santa Ynez Valley, including parts of Solvang. 

For more information about the district, go to or call 805-688-6015. The preliminary budget may be found in the “2019-05-29 Special Mtg Packet” under the website’s News tab.