Environment & Science

Santa Barbara to consider lawn watering ban

Santa Barbara is considering banning all lawn watering in the face of the ongoing drought.
Santa Barbara is considering banning all lawn watering in the face of the ongoing drought.
Photo by Evan Leeson via Flickr Creative Commons

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The five-year drought in California may have the green lawns of Santa Barbara in its sights.  

In an unprecedented move, the Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday is considering an outright ban on lawn watering.

As a conservation measure, the city already has limitations on what time of day people can water. Tom Fayram, deputy director of public works in charge of water resources for Santa Barbara County, said his department will continue to push voluntary conservation measures.

“We need to conserve now, to save that water for later,” Fayram said.

According to Tim Quinn, executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies, no agency has ever imposed a restriction like this one, though.

“I have not heard of any local agency that’s willing to go this far,” Quinn said. “This is an unusually harsh measure that goes beyond what most communities feel they need to do.”

The main water source for the city of Santa Barbara and the nearby University of California campus is Lake Cachuma, which usually fills up with rainwater — but that hasn’t happened for two years, Fayram said.

“The state did get more rain further up north and actually had reservoirs fill,” he said. “Southern California didn’t benefit from last winter’s rains as much.”

Lake Cachuma is running dry. It currently sits at roughly 7.6 percent of capacity, and the city’s not even allowed to draw from it any more once it hits 6.2 percent of capacity. And that’s not much longer, with no additional water coming in.

“Cachuma water without any inflow will be all but exhausted by the end of this year, early next year,” Fayram said. “Then when we get to the summer months, demand picks up again. When you have reduced supply and the capacity issues, then you have to turn to your demand.”

That’s the goal of the Santa Barbara City Council, to investigate what it can do about limiting that demand. It won’t decide anything at the Tuesday meeting, which is for discussion only.

Given the love some people have for their lawns, though, the debate is expected to be a lively one.