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Santa Barbara Water Commission Tackles Drought with Conservation Workshop

City Hall presentation offered conservation tips including irrigation practices, rebates and city programs

In an effort to encourage early compliance with drought water use regulations, the Santa Barbara public works department held a "Water Wise" conservation workshop before the Santa Barbara Water Commission Monday in an effort to meet the city's 20-percent reduction goal. 

The presentation covered public and commercial conservation tactics including irrigation practices, indoor water usage and rebate offers.

Landscaping irrigation was blamed for more than 50 percent of Santa Barbara's overall water usage and accounts for roughly the same percentage on individual water bill costs. 

Acting water conservation coordinator Madeline Ward said one of the surest ways for customers to lower their bills and help the city conserve water is to maintain their sprinkler systems and grow plants that require less watering.

"People don't realize how much of their water bill is on their garden. If you have a really large landscape, it can make up as much as 90 percent of your bill," she said.

"Most of the water used in the city is by single-family homes. It's important for families is to understand where their water is going."

The City of Santa Barbara offers free water checks for homes and businesses and offers irrigation controllers that monitor water output as part of their rebate program.

The city offers rebates for 50 percent off the cost of selected water wise plants, sprinkler systems and greywater (laundry waste water) irrigation systems. Single family households can qualify for rebates up to $1,000 from the cost of any combination of approved equipment.

The public works department also asked customers to check their toilets, particularly their overflow tubes and flappers that control the rate at which water gets disposed of with every flush. A leak in either system can waste as much as 200 gallons of water per day, Ward said.

Other tips included shutting off faucets in the kitchen and bathrooms while dish washing, grooming and limiting showers to 5 minutes per day.

Conservation efforts that accelerated with the drought declaration in May are happening at the same time as major water system capital projects including a recycled water facility upgrade and three well replacements.

Additionally, the Cachuma Operations and Maintenance Board Pumping Project, scheduled to be online by the end of September, will help route water from Lake Cachuma's dwindling reserves.

Desalinated water from the ocean could be tapped as an additional supply source with the Charles E. Meyer Desalination Facility. The reactivation process is underway with several pending environmental impact studies. The facility would be operated during water shortage conditions.

Initiated by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and passed into law in 2009, California's 20 X 2020 Water Conservation Plan obliged cities throughout the state to reduce per capita urban water usage 20 percent by the year 2020.

Santa Barbara water customers cut back on use by 18 percent in July, an increase from the 15 percent in June. 

The city hopes to save 1,200 acre-feet of water, or about 391 gallons, before Sept. 30 and has currently saved 500 acre-feet. 

Noozhawk intern Shaun Kahmann can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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