Montecito Water District Seeks 20% Reduction in Customer Water Use

Prompted by statewide extreme drought conditions and an increase in customer usage that is trending over budget, Montecito Water District has set a goal of reducing overall water use by 20%. The Board of Directors adopted this target at its regular meeting on July 27, 2021 after reviewing the Quarterly Water Supply Update and data on current consumption.  With most of the District’s water going to outdoor uses, something as simple as most community members adjusting their irrigation settings for fewer minutes or fewer days per week could achieve the goal in short order.

The District’s 3-year water supply outlook is favorable due to actions taken in recent years including storing State Water Project deliveries in the Semitropic Groundwater Banking and Exchange Program, establishing the Montecito Groundwater Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency, and finalizing a 50-year water supply agreement with the City of Santa Barbara secured by its desalination facility.  However, with drought conditions now extreme and customer usage trending towards 25% over budget, the District is taking early action to guard against any potential water shortages two or three years down the road.

“We have succeeded with several major initiatives that all contribute to supply security.” said General Manager Nick Turner. “Conservation is an important source of supply that also needs managed, and this reduction goal is intended to bring customer use in line with demand expectations - voluntarily. We’re really looking to customers to evaluate their properties and figure out something they can do today to reduce water use. Our message is simple: partner with us and water supply should be secure for the long haul.”

During the pandemic domestic water use has increased in many communities. Montecito Water District, which serves Montecito and Summerland, has seen usage increase in approximately 75% of single-family residences in the past year. The District began increasing messaging on voluntary conservation earlier this year after customer usage spiked in December.

“Pro-active planning is the impetus for the 20% water use reduction goal,” said Board President Tobe Plough.  “Government tends to react in a crisis mode, and we want to do better than that. The Montecito Water District is not unique in experiencing an increase in water use, what is unique is that we are looking far ahead. Drought is something Montecito and Summerland can and must prepare for as a community.  The District has worked very hard to bolster water supplies, and we want to help customers identify actions they can take now to ensure those water supplies last as intended.”

The region’s climatic record indicates that drought is actually its normal hydrologic condition. Rainy years tend to be more extreme, and few and far between in comparison to years where rainfall is “below average.” According to a Future Water Demand and Water Supply Options study completed by the District in May, 2020 increased use is expected during dry years due to increased irrigation needs. The study provides models for wet and dry year use, and the current trend exceeds the dry year model and if continued could be unsustainable.

In addition to adhering to its own budget, the District will need to comply with State regulations, currently governed by Senate Bill X7-7, to ensure ongoing eligibility for State and Federal funding which could be instrumental in supporting costly projects the District is pursuing such as water reuse.

The District announced the 20% reduction goal and sent a list of best practices to reduce water use to customers with the July invoice. Customers needing assistance are encouraged to call 805.969.2271 for free consultations with the District’s Conservation Specialist. Additional information can be found on the web site:

Conservation Specialist Mike Clark provides free water efficiency visits for District Customers. Adjustments to irrigation settings can result in significant water use reduction.
Howard Silver, Montecito Water District’s Regional Winner in the 2021 WaterWise Garden Recognition Contest, meets with Conservation Specialist Mike Clark.
Historic rainfall on Jameson Lake (according to District records) - 2021 annual rainfall is 8.87" (lowest on record) 31% of average.
Data for nearly 100 years shows that rainfall is “below average” in most years.

Montecito Water District’s mission is to provide an adequate and reliable supply of high quality water to the residents of Montecito and Summerland, at the most reasonable cost. In carrying out this mission, the District places particular emphasis on providing outstanding customer service, conducting its operations in an environmentally sensitive manner, and working cooperatively with other agencies. For additional information visit, like Montecito Water District on Facebook, and follow on twitter @MontecitoWater.