March - esources hheader 
In This Issue
El Estero's New Cogeneration Plant
Kids Comment on a Tour to El Estero
The Future of Our Water Supply
Free Rain Sensors Available
MP Rotator Sprinkler
Remember to turn your sprinklers off during and after a rain event! Free Rain Sensors are available,click here for more info.

Increase in Amount for Smart Landscape Rebate

Increased cash rebates are now being offered to Santa Barbara residents who make their yards more water-wise. The City and Goleta Water District are offering up to $1,000 for single-family homes and up to $2,000 to $4,000 for businesses and Homeowner Associations (HOAs).  

Helpful Links

Nationwide, household leaks account for more than one trillion gallons lost each year.  Fixing and preventing household leaks involves three easy steps: check, twist, and replace.


Native Plant Garden Tour
The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden and California Native Plant Society Channel Islands Chapter invite you to a Native Plant Garden Tour April 16th, 10am to 4 pm. These self-guided tours feature gardens from Goleta and Santa Barbara to Ventura county. Experiencing these beautiful gardens first hand is a great opportunity to gain inspiration and learn about these amazing plants. Click here to register or call (805)682-4726 ext 102.
Native Plants

2011 Responsible Bathroom Water Conservation Tour
American Standard's mobile showroom is touring the nation to help communities save water by installing water efficient products. The tour will stop in Santa Barbara on Tuesday, April 5, at Smarden-Hatcher Co. Click here for more information.
Tour Bus


Welcome to the inaugural edition of "Water e-Sources," an electronic quarterly newsletter produced by the City of Santa Barbara Water Resources Division! We hope to provide you with information on water conservation, water treatment and our water supply.


If you prefer not to receive this e-newsletter, please click the "SafeUnsubscribe" link at the bottom of the page.


Enjoy and stay informed.

Wastewater Treatment Facility  Converts into a Green Plant
Cogeneration will turn methane into electricity

El Estero Wastewater Treatment Plant

A new cogeneration plant is expected to create enough heat from methane gases to heat digesters such as this one 

Methane gas created by the City's El Estero Wastewater Treatment Plant will be used to create electricity perhaps by the end of this year, saving the city $55,000 a year in its annual electric bill.


Staff asked the City Council in February to approve the negotiated contract with California Power Partners Inc. of San Diego, or Calpwr.  In the contract, Calpwr would cover the costs of design and construction, and sell the electricity back to the City at a discounted rate.


The arrangement calls for Calpwr to build a $2.5 million "cogeneration facility" at the City's El Estero Wastewater Treatment Plant, 520 E. Yanonali St. A previous attempt, using fuel cell technology to capture energy from methane gas, had less than favorable results, and the equipment was removed in late 2010.


Methane is a greenhouse gas, contributing to global warming. Rather than release it into the atmosphere, El Estero burns it off. By burning it in an internal combustion engine cogeneration system, which is what California Power will build, El Estero will create electricity and can save the heat. This system has the capacity to provide most of the plant's electricity and heating needs.


Compared to other hydrocarbon fuels used to generate power, burning methane produces less carbon dioxide for each unit of heat released., Wikipedia says. Once the cogeneration plant is operating, it will use the methane to create electricity and to heat digesters, which are the structures at the treatment plant that process the city's sewage.

Students Get the Treatment
at Wastewater Plant


Madeline Ward

To schedule a tour or classroom presentation, call Madeline Ward at 897-2672

Every year, more than 1,000 students, from first-graders to high school seniors, tour the El Estero Wastewater Treatment Plant at 520 E. Yanonali St.  The students explore the interesting physical and biological processes used to treat the wastewater and how it is turned into useful end products such as recycled water, biosolids, and methane gas. Wastewater operators lead the students through the plant, viewing equipment from influent pumps to ocean outfall. The tour includes a stop in the water resources laboratory to explore the wastewater process under a microscope. Students discover first-hand what happens to the water that goes down the drain and the important role El Estero plays in protecting our environment.

Another part of the City's outreach program is to provide free water education to local K-12 schools. The water education program includes classroom presentations tailored to each grade level and aligned with California state standards. Presentation topics include the water cycle, local water supplies, water use, the importance of water to life, and water conservation. Educating local children about where their water comes from and how to use it wisely promotes an understanding of the importance of ensuring adequate water supplies for future generations.


They Learned the Tour Way

A fifth-grade class of students wrote thank-you letters after going on an El Estero tour.  Here are samples:


"Thank you for our field trip to El Estero.  I was fascinated by the super good smell of the stinky room. . . . I learned that tiny little micro organisms eat people's poop."


 "I learned that it's bad to flush down medicine in the toilet; In other words, I learned much."


"I learned that we should not put chemicals in the storm drain because it can make our water dirty and it can also make us sick.  So we need to help and make our world a better place."

Don't Sweat the Upgrade
Efficient Sprinklers

Today's Special: Half Off

WW LandscapingImprove your irrigation system efficiency without digging trenches. Yes, it is possible! For instance, you could retrofit your sprinklers by unscrewing spray heads and replacing with rotating pop-up heads, which use 20 percent less water. Visit an irrigation supply store, and its staff can help with the retrofit, while the City of Santa Barbara's Water Conservation Program can help with the cost.


Rebates are available for commercial and residential landscapes for irrigation efficiency upgrades and water-wise landscaping.  Rebate is up to 50 percent of material costs and may cover a portion of the cost of drip irrigation parts, sprinkler system efficiency retrofits, rotator nozzles, smart irrigation controllers, water-wise plants, and mulch.

To get started, make an appointment with the water conservation staff for a pre-inspection.  Properties that qualify will receive a list of items eligible for the rebate program. Participation in the Smart Landscape Rebate Program is on a first-come, first-served basis. Projects must be approved in advance, and landscapes for new construction are not eligible.

What the Future Holds
for Our Water Supply

Bill Ferguson
Bill Ferguson 


By Bill Ferguson

Water Resources Supervisor


An update of the City's 1994 Long-Term Water Supply Program is under way.  The update is being done for the period of 2011 through 2030, along with the Plan Santa Barbara process to update the City's General Plan.


The City's various water supplies are being analyzed to determine the best approach for providing a reliable and cost effective water supply.  In most years, our water needs can be met with local surface water from Lake Cachuma and Gibraltar Reservoir on the Santa Ynez River, along with small amounts of groundwater and State Water.  Water conservation and recycled water help us reduce the amount of water required from these sources so we can save it for later in case of prolonged dry weather.


Periodic drought is the most common challenge for our water supply.  Lake Cachuma is our primary water supply and its multi-year storage capacity helps us respond to the shorter dry periods.  When a drought of three or more years occurs, the City traditionally draws on accumulated reserves of water in Lake Cachuma, pumps more groundwater, and orders more water from the State Water Project, to the extent it is available.  During the most recent severe drought of 1987-1992, the City supplemented our reduced supplies by constructing a desalination facility.  With substantial rehabilitation cost, the facility could be reactivated if needed.


The water supply update is addressing a number of key issues.  The appropriate role for desalination is being re-evaluated due to the high cost of reactivation and operation.  Opportunities for increased use of recycled water are being investigated to further reduce the need for potable water use.  New savings from water conservation are being explored, using sophisticated computer modeling.  The effect of updated plumbing codes and appliance standards is being estimated to help determine an updated demand estimate.  Water demand has dropped by about 15% since 1988, despite increasing population, and there is evidence that further reductions are practical and cost effective.


Recent storms have filled Gibraltar Reservoir and increased Lake Cachuma's storage to over 95% of its capacity.   The County of Santa Barbara maintains a web site where rainfall and reservoir levels can be tracked on a real-time basis.  The site is located at: 


It Just Takes Common Sensor
to Stop Sprinklers in Rain

Rain SensorTo avoid leaving your sprinklers on when it's raining, get a free rain-shutoff sensor from the City's Water Conservation Program.  City residents can call 564-5460 to schedule a free water-checkup to receive a free rain-shutoff sensor.


A rain-shutoff sensor is an irrigation shutoff device that prevents an automatic sprinkler system from turning on during and after a rain storm. These devices override a scheduled irrigation when a sensor on the shutoff device detects water.  When the collected rainwater has evaporated from the device, scheduled irrigations resume.


It is recommended that you turn the sprinkler timer to "rain off" for extended wet periods during the rainy season. Rain shutoff sensors work best for short off periods. For extended periods, it is more accurate to have irrigation controller in the "off" position.