Answers to frequently asked questions about the drought are below.
For additional questions, please see:
General Drought FAQs
- What are the drought stages?
There are 3 drought stages: Stage 1 is to alert the public that a potential serious water shortage may occur if dry weather continues and water demands remain high. Stage 2 reflects that a serious water shortage is expected in the current or impending year, and includes drought based water rates and mandatory water use restrictions. Stage 3 is triggered by an extreme water shortage which includes increasing drought rates and more aggressive mandatory restrictions. The City maintains a Water Shortage Contingency Plan which was most recently updated with the 2011 Water Supply Plan. It plans for “extraordinary” water conservation measures, above and beyond normal water conservation actions, during water shortages.
- How much rainfall do we need to end the drought?
For the City’s drought condition to be considered over, Lake Cachuma would need to fill up to capacity. We would need to have above average rainfall to replenish Cachuma Reservoir. The long-term average rainfall is approximately 25-30 inches. For Gibraltar, it takes approximately 10 inches of rain to saturate the ground to the point that runoff could begin to flow into the reservoir. Ideally, this amount of rain would occur over a series of storm events to avoid flooding concerns. See more information about countywide Rainfall and Reservoirs.
- Does the City currently have a target for customers to reduce water use?
The City needs to reduce our normal water demand by 35% with extraordinary water conservation measures. Any water saved now can help prevent more severe actions needed in the future as drought conditions continue. We are urging that each customer (residential, business, commercial, etc.) evaluate their water use and see where they can conserve. The City’s Water Conservation Program is here to help everyone save water; to get help evaluating water use and conservation opportunities, get a free water checkup.
- Are there watering restrictions?
Yes, irrigation is limited to evening and early morning hours between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. If manually operated, such irrigation is allowed only between the hours of 4:00 p.m. and 10:30 a.m. Watering is not allowed during or 48 hours after rainfall. For details and to see all water use restrictions, see the Water Use Regulations page.
- Are pool covers required?
Yes, under a Stage Three Drought condition, swimming pools and spas must have a cover that conforms to the size and shape of the pool or spa and acts as an effective barrier to evaporation. The cover must be in place during periods when use of the pool or spa is not reasonably expected to occur. Rebates
may be available, for more info, call (805) 564-5460.
In addition, draining and refilling up to one third of the volume of a pool per year is allowed as necessary to maintain suitable pool water quality. Draining and refilling in excess of one third per year is prohibited, except as authorized by the Public Works Director based on evidence from qualified maintenance personnel that such further draining is required to make needed repairs, or to prevent equipment damage or voiding of warranties.
For information on safety regulations for commercial and multi-family pools from the County of Santa Barbara, click here
- How much water does a typical household use every month?
Pre-drought, the average single family residence used approximately 13 hundred cubic feet (hcf) per month (9,700 gallons). In multi-family residential buildings, the average usage is approximately 5 hcf (3,700 gallons) per month per dwelling unit. Learn more about historical water usage.
- How can I conserve water?
The easiest way for City customers to reduce their water usage by 35% or more is to check for leaks and reduce their outdoor water use.
- On average, half of a home’s water use is used outdoors for watering lawns and gardens. Watering your lawn for 15 minutes on average uses 700 gallons. This is where there is the most waste, and the most opportunities for saving water. Everyone is encouraged to turn on their sprinklers and drip at least once a month to inspect them and make sure they are working properly. Setting the proper watering times on your sprinkler timer is also very important; learn how you can adjust it easily with the Watering % Adjust.
- Check for leaks
- Check your toilets - 20% of all toilets leak, often silently or at night. Follow these directions to check your toilet for leaks. A leaking toilet can waste up to 500 gallons a day.
- Look for drips - faucets, fixtures, hoses and plumbing in kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and appliances.
- Water Meters: Watch your water meter to find a leak.
- Printable Step-by-Step Instructions on How to Check for Leaks on Your Property on our website here.
City water customers can get a free indoor and outdoor water checkup by calling 564-5460.
- Is the City putting a hold on development projects under Stage Three?
Not at this time. The City’s Long Term Water Supply Plan (LTWSP) includes the projected demand from development anticipated under the City’s updated General Plan. This is a minimal amount because new projects represent a small portion of overall water usage and are built to the latest efficiency standards for landscaping and plumbing fixtures. The City has planned for an additional water demand of 40 acre feet per year from new development in the General Plan and the Long-Term Water Supply Plan. The average water demand from new development over the last 12 years is 28 acre feet per year of demand; this represents approximately 0.3% of the City's total water demand. Should the City’s water supply situation continue to worsen, development restrictions will be considered. Click here to learn more about demand from development.
- What are City Parks doing to conserve water?
The City Parks department has done a commendable job at conserving water in parks and at the golf course. Some turf areas have stopped being watered entirely, others have been cut back by 20-30%. More info can be found on the Parks Drought Page and the Parks Strategic Drought Response Plan.
- How much does our water supply cost?
The unit cost per acre-foot for water supply is shown in the chart below (last updated April 2014). While costs can vary from year to year, the chart shows relative differences in costs by water source based on 1) variable cost to use the source (major conveyance and treatment), and 2) the incremental new costs for capital infrastructure or acquisition (for ocean desalination or water purchases, respectively). The costs shown do not include debt service or fixed costs for existing sources, since those are considered “sunk” costs and do not affect decisions on alternative drought supplies. In addition, the costs to operate and maintain the City’s distribution system are not included; only the costs to deliver water to the point of connection to the distribution system are shown.
- Why does my drinking water taste and smell different?
During this time of drought, we have to rely more on our ground water supplies to supplement our diminishing surface water supplies for drinking water. Treated groundwater may taste or smell different than what you are used to from your tap, but it does comply with all Federal and State primary drinking water regulations. It is safe to drink and does not pose any health risks.
Last Updated: Apr 29, 2016