Conservation is Critical to Extending Water Supplies During Drought

Photos of water basins with extraordinary low water levels

On January 17, 2014 California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency caused by drought, and asked all Californians to reduce their water use by 20%.  The County of Santa Barbara joined the State, declaring a drought emergency the following week, echoing the Governor’s call for a 20% reduction in water use.

Here at the Goleta Water District, we are taking the current drought conditions very seriously, and we encourage our customers to support statewide efforts and regional calls for water conservation.  Our customers’ ability to continue their long-standing water thriftiness and keep demand low during this extraordinary dry period is critical to our ongoing ability to meet our customer demands.

The South Coast region last experienced a significant drought approximately 25 years ago.  Since that time, a lot has changed in the area.  The population of our service area has grown about 20% since 1990, but overall water use has remained relatively flat.  This is largely due to the fact that Goleta Water District customers have achieved the lowest per capita residential water use on the South Coast.  The average residential District customer uses 66 gallons per person per day, which is 60% less water per day than the average residential customer on the South Coast and 50% less water per day than the average residential customer statewide.

But story does not end there.  Conservation is a way of life for all of our customers. 

  • The agricultural community in the District, which accounts for about 20% of customer water demand, has made significant investment in water efficient irrigation, with 85% of all farmers in our service area employing drip or microspray irrigation.  
  • Since 1994, the District recycled water system has served approximately 1,000 acre feet (AF), or 325 million gallons, per year of recycled water for irrigation and other non-potable purposes, conserving drinking water.
  • UCSB reduced their potable water demand by 25% between 1997 and 2008 through water efficient fixtures, drought tolerant landscaping, and significant expansion of their recycled water use.  90% of on campus irrigation uses recycled water.
  • Rebate programs offered by the District have provided customer incentives for improving water efficiency.
    • The Smart Landscape Rebate Program provided $70,000 in cash rebates for customers to replace water-thirsty turf with water-wise landscaping.  The two year program resulted in savings of 25 million gallons of water per year.
    • The Toilet Rebate Program replaced 1,623 toilets (3.6 gallons per flush) with low-flow toilets (1.6 gallons per flush), saving approximately 3,600 gallons per person per year.
    • The Showerhead Distribution Program has resulted in the installation of more than 35,000 efficient showerheads, saving 1,250 gallons per person annually.

These are just a few of the many examples of how GWD customers are leaders in conservation.  Additionally, there are a lot of things that have happened in the industry Statewide such as a host of State Building Code changes coupled with technological advances in plumbing and irrigation fixtures, landscape requirements for new development, and water use efficiency programs and incentives.  Since 1990 water demand has remained relatively flat and it is that ongoing commitment to water thriftiness that will be what gets the community through the current drought.

There is always more we can do to be water wise and Goleta Water District is committed to providing our customers with the tools and resources to be even more efficient in their water use.  Given the current drought conditions, it is more important than ever that our customers recommit to water thriftiness.

While significant reductions in customers’ indoor use today is limited as a result of the significant advances in fixture and irrigation technology and more stringent state laws and plumbing code regulations of the past two decades, the reality is that about half of all water used in our service area is used outside.  There is much that we can do to reduce our outside water use.

Understanding how much water you use in your home or business is the first step to identifying ways to conserve water.

  • Find, fix, and report leaks.
  • Simply adjusting your watering scheduling and regularly checking for and fixing leaks and overspray can reduce your monthly water use by 15-20 gallons per day.
  • Water outdoor landscaping only between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. to reduce evaporation and interference from wind, which can save 20-25 gallons per day.
  • Replace a portion of lawn with native and water-wise plants can save 33-60 gallons per 1,000 square feet every time you water, depending on the climate.
  • Adding 2” to 3” of mulch around trees and plants to reduce evaporation can save 20-30 gallons per day per 1,000 square feet.  The County of Santa Barbara offers mulch for little to no charge at locations throughout the County.  Visit their website for details.
  • For more tools, tips and resources on how you can continue to reduce your water use, visit the Goleta Water District Conservation Pages, as well as state and regional partners: Water Wise SB and the California Save Our Water Program.  

It is important to remember that a statewide Drought Declaration does not equate to a water shortage in our service area.  We take our role as stewards of our critical water resources seriously at the Goleta Water District and, with the support of our community, have planned for the current conditions.  However, there is never enough water to waste – especially in this unprecedented dry period.  Reducing the water used in our service area is the only true way to address the current drought and we are asking our customers to do what they can to bolster their commitment to conservation.  Our ability to provide sustainable water service now and into the future depends on you.   

Drought conditions will determine future Water Shortage Stages

The District will be introducing additional conservation incentive and rebate programs for indoor and outdoor use to further reduce customer demand.  If conditions persist and the District is forced to consider a Stage 2 declaration or beyond, the District will be implementing mandatory reduction programs.  These may include prohibitions and limits on specified water uses, a moratorium on new development, and drought water rates in order to reduce customer demand.

Together we can all do our part to conserve and extend the community’s valuable water supplies during this drought. For more information on water conservation, please visit our state and regional partners at and

Customers can be assured that District is well positioned to continue to provide safe and reliable water service through this dry period.  We encourage you to contact the District with questions, to report a leak, or to schedule a home or business water survey.  Thank you for your ongoing efforts to conserve water!

(Published February 5, 2014)