With critical drought conditions currently affecting our local region and the state and with an early start to fire season as well as high fire danger, residents need to be aware of water conservation actions they can take to extend water supplies that are critical for firefighters to defend and protect our community. 


WaterWise Santa Barbara has embarked on a campaign to inform county residents of the severe impacts of the drought, including impacts relating to potential fire dangers. (WaterWise Santa Barbara photo)

WaterWise Santa Barbara, a coalition of 16 water providers from throughout Santa Barbara County, has embarked on a campaign to inform county residents of the severe impacts of the current drought, including impacts relating to potential fire dangers.

An assessment by the National Weather Service placed Santa Barbara County at “Extreme” Drought level, which is only one level above “Exceptional,” the driest and worst assessment of all. Given the unseasonably hot spring and with summer around the corner, the situation does not look like it will be improving on its own.

One of our important firefighting resources, Lake Cachuma, is down 63 percent of its normal capacity. If dry, arid conditions continued, it was expected that by mid-June the reservoir would be at its lowest storage in over 20 years, which concerns firefighters dedicated to protecting the area.

“Everyone can ensure that adequate water resources are available to protect local communities by taking extraordinary water conservation actions,” said Capt. David Sadecki of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department. “Often times, as a fire is approaching, homeowners will use garden hoses to water down their roof or vegetation. We don’t recommend this because it doesn’t really help and it decreases the water pressure needed to fight the fire. The best thing a homeowner can do is to provide adequate defensible space around their home.”

In addition to creating defensible areas around their homes, WaterWise is asking residents in Santa Barbara County to consider reducing their water consumption by a minimum of 20 percent. With the risk so high, it’s up to all of us working together to remember that every gallon saved can be used to help fight fires that could decimate neighborhoods or wilderness areas in Santa Barbara County.

Sadecki said that fire stations across the county are also doing their part with extraordinary water conservation actions. They have cut back on the frequency of washing the fire trucks and run dishwashers and washing machines with full loads only. They are also reducing the amount of ornamental vegetation around the stations and are conducting hose drills without filling them with water.

Planting fire-resistant vegetation and maintaining a defensible zone around homes and buildings is another way to save water and boost the resources available for first responders. An extensive list of drought-tolerant and fire-resistant trees, shrubs and vines are available by visiting the “water saving plants” section at WaterWiseSB.org.

Working together, Santa Barbara County residents can protect valuable resources and the safety of their community. For more tips on saving water, click here.

— Carol Rock is a publicist representing WaterWise Santa Barbara.