City of Santa Barbara


Enforcement Against Water Theft

SANTA BARBARA, CA - 7/16/2014

The Santa Barbara Police Department and Santa Barbara Public Works Department will be taking enforcement action against water thieves.

Santa Barbara is experiencing an unprecedented drought, with the driest consecutive three years on record.  On May 20, 2014, the Santa Barbara City Council declared a Stage Two Drought Condition, which restricts water use.  On July 1, 2014, drought-based water rates went into effect for water use starting June 1, 2014 to motivate people to conserve water.

The City Council recently adopted revised Municipal Code language that better describes what constitutes unlawful use of water and allows for people who unlawfully use water to be cited for a misdemeanor.  While unlawful use of water is always a concern, dwindling supplies heighten the need for enforcement.

Unlawful use of water includes water theft, which generally occurs by illegally connecting to a fire hydrant, private fireline, or backflow device; or illegally tapping into a City water main.  All such connections must be made using a City-issued water meter.  Water theft also includes tying into another account holder’s service line, using water through a meter that does not have an active account holder, or receiving water through an unmetered water service line.

Water theft impacts the entire community.  It drains precious supplies without providing revenue for operating the water system and managing supplies; and it can create a health risk for our water customers. 

Members of the public who witness any unauthorized use of water are encouraged to call the Police Department at (805) 897-2410, or the City’s Water Conservation Hotline at (805) 564-5460.  Photos of water theft can be emailed to or uploaded to the City’s online reporting form at  Please include pictures if possible, as this is the best way for the City to enforce violations.  Please also include the date, time, and address associated with any submitted water theft photos.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact the City’s Water Conservation Hotline at (805) 564-5460.  Información en español es disponible al (805) 564-5413.

Sergeant Riley L. Harwood, Community & Media Relations / PIO
Phone: (805) 897-2320

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