Imagine a Day Without Water

By the Montecito Water District

Montecito Water District prides itself on providing a reliable water supply, and rightly so—it’s been doing it successfully for more than 100 years. Today the challenge is demand: the District is turning up the volume on its message to customers that water use is too high, with a request to reduce irrigation now. With customer usage running approximately 20% above budget over the past year, General Manager Nick Turner is indeed imagining days without water, and the District is taking steps to get usage back on track.

“Our ask is simple,” said General Manager Nick Turner, “reduce irrigation by 20%. For example, if you currently water for 20 minutes, cut that back to 16 minutes. If everyone in the community reduced the duration and / or frequency of watering landscapes we’d be on budget. We’ve diligently planned and budgeted for water supply – we need customers to help with demand.”

In addition to traditional communications such as emails, bill inserts, and advertisements, the District has been trying new ways to get attention—such as installing banners and putting flashing message boards on
prominent roadways. Staff is also reaching out to community organizations and schools, asking “the village” to spread the word.

The District’s drought resilience has greatly improved in recent years with actions such as completing a 50- year agreement with the City of Santa Barbara to share in desalination, which it celebrated on national “Imagine a Day Without Water” in October 2020. Per the agreement, the District began receiving water deliveries in January 2022. This local, drought resilient supply provides for about one-third of the District’s budgeted water needs.

“What we need people to understand is that we have sufficient supplies to provide for the community’s health and safety needs under almost any condition, which is major progress,” says Board Vice President Ken Coates. “What we can’t support is increasing exterior use through extreme drought. Irrigation needs to be scaled back.”

While about 1/3 of customers have maintained or improved conservation in recent years, the remaining 2/3 have increased usage. The District is asking for voluntary conservation to achieve the goal for 20% reduction in water use.

On the web site customers can find a variety of resources to help with water conservation, and the District provides free on-site visits tailored to the needs of each property. To further support customers, the District is on schedule to complete a Water Efficiency Plan by the end of the year and begin rolling out rebates and incentives for mulch delivery, landscape conversions, appliance replacements and other water saving efforts.



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  1. Well, minor a MWD customer or Montecito resident but it must be hard to cut back watering one’s greenery when neighbors continue caring for theirs with seemingly (to them) inexhaustible well water.
    Maybe those properties that are on wells should be identified as the better-than-thou that more than a few of them think of themselves. Or maybe there should be a water surcharge on their property tax bills, just as there’s talk of doing _something_ to have E- vehicles pay to road maintenance just as gas-vehicle owners do?

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