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Cachuma Reservoir

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Lake Cachuma and Bradbury Dam are located on the Santa Ynez River about 25 miles northwest of Santa Barbara. The Cachuma Operation and Maintenance Board (COMB) is a California Joint Powers Agency (JPA) formed in 1956 pursuant to an agreement with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR). The agreement transferred to the Cachuma Project Member Units the responsibility to operate, repair, and maintain all Cachuma Project facilities, except Bradbury Dam, which the Bureau of Reclamation continues to operate since its construction in 1953. Water is diverted from Cachuma Reservoir through the 6.4 mile Tecolote Tunnel through the Santa Ynez mountains to the South Coast region. From the tunnel outlet, the water is carried through the 24 mile South Coast Conduit. About midway down the conduit, water is treated at the City’s Cater Water Treatment Plant and distributed to residents within the City’s service area, as well as put back into the conduit for delivery to residents in Montecito, Summerland, and Carpinteria.


Cachuma Project Member Units

  • City of Santa Barbara
  • Goleta Water District
  • Montecito Water District
  • Carpinteria Valley Water District
Drainage Area: 417 square miles (including Gibraltar drainage area)
Water Surface Elevation at Original Maximum Storage: 750 ft above sea level
Water Surface Elevation at Maximum Surcharge: 753 ft above sea level
Annual Yield: The Cachuma Project has a current yield of 25,714 acre feet per year and the City is entitled to 32.19% of the water available, which at the current yield is 8,277 AFY during normal years. Deliveries are typically decreased when the reservoir drops below 100,000 AF of storage.
Capacity: 183,751 AF at 750’ elevation, 192,987 AF at 753’ elevation

Operating Criteria

The Cachuma Project operates under a permit granted by the State Water Resources Control Board. Project water is accumulated to the extent that inflow is not needed to satisfy the release requirements. It is delivered to the Member Units in accordance with a Master Contract between U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the Santa Barbara County Water Agency, and the Cachuma Project Authority. The contract was renewed in 1996 for a twenty five-year term.