How Santa Barbara Became a Water-Saving Success Story

City of Santa Barbara employee Kathy Pare (L) and resident Carol Ritz in front of a yard that was recently converted into drought-friendly plants, thanks to a city rebate program. (Sanden Totten/KPCC)

As cities across California look for ways to save water, they might want to study Santa Barbara. The coastal town of about 90,000 people already cut water use by 22 percent in two years, and it's gearing up to save even more.

It's ranked fourth in the state when it comes to water conservation, and it's No. 1 in Southern California.

How did the city manage such a feat?

"I think it’s just giving people the right tools to do that," said the city's conservation coordinator, Madeleine Ward.

For Santa Barbara, those tools include teaching schoolkids about the drought, and offering free sprinkler heads, rain sensors and rebates for water-saving washing machines.

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"We're all working together, we have to," said Cathie Pare, who also works for Santa Barbara’s water conservation program.

She helps manage a popular yard replacement program under which residents can get back half the cost of the materials required to swap grass for drought-friendly plants, up to $1,000 for single-family homes.

Since last July, the city has given out $190,000 in yard rebates.

Read the full story via KPCC