Summer 2021 Pledge campaign- Keep Sweetwater's Drought expertise alive in our community

Sweetwater provides education, workshops, and trainings for sustainable water management. We are a vital community resource as we again approach significant drought. However, we are still struggling to get back on our feet after Pandemic conditions left us without any funding in 2021 while we develop new programs. We need your help now to keep Sweetwater alive. Click on the "Contribute" button on the left sidebar of any page on our website: or send a check to PO Box 134, Santa Barbara, CA 93102

We need to raise $5000 to cover operating expenses through October 2021. That’s only $1000/month to cover insurance, expenses to keep our website up, rent, and a minimal salary for our executive director, so we don’t have to close.  Please help us continue to make a difference.

Through our classes, workshops, presentations, partnerships, professional trainings, tours, website, and consulting and coaching, we help our community live in balance with the local watershed. We teach about and promote practices such as climate-appropriate landscaping, rainwater harvesting and infiltration, and potable water conservation and re-use. In turn, this keeps energy and climate costs of our water sources low.

Rainwater harvesting, building a healthy soil sponge and carbon sequestration are all strategies that work together and are part of the Sweetwater model. These practices help to build resilience to fires and other climate disruptions in our local community. Rainwater harvesting earthworks can also reduce flooding.
We go beyond water conservation to teach about and implement landscape transformations that reflect our community’s environmental values. Innovative water sources need to be part of the story and Sweetwater has led the local conversation about them and will continue to do so.

Click on the 'Contribute' button on the left sidebar of any page on our website: or send a check to PO Box 134, Santa Barbara, CA 93102


Get a "Plant the Rain" cap for every $100 you donate to our Summer 2021 campaign.These adjustable one-size-fits-most 100% organic-cotton baseball caps come in two colors, Earth Brown and Pacific Blue (each of which has a slightly different logo). Please specify color. Offered through Brad Lancaster. Value is $25 plus tax and shipping. Sweetwater does not get a discount for offering these caps. We just want to spread the message and offer a gift to contributors. Fulfillment will be at the end of the campaign so that all caps can be ordered at the same time.


Sweetwater can help preparing for drought

Talk of drought is in the air in our community. For a bit of time, many people considered we have had a reprieve from dealing with that stress locally, since Lake Cachuma was officially full and set to provide our water needs for the next few years. Granted, we had other stresses to deal with during the Pandemic- but that particular one was not on most people’s radar so much.

Currently, however, ‘drought’ is projected to happen in our community and much of California, again, soon.  Das Williams, in a recent email newsletter, said, “Right now, Santa Barbara County is at about half of its average rainfall for this time of year. The U.S. Drought Monitor shows the county in a moderate to severe drought, depending on the area. Although the word 'drought' often induces fear and helplessness, there is actually a lot you can do as an individual to reduce your water consumption by implementing water wise strategies and programs.”

Yes, but where to begin? What strategies make the most sense for you, for those who live with you, and for the space where your live- whether you are a homeowner or renter? Sweetwater can give you both general and specific information about ideas and strategies that work well for our area and that can fit your budget and lifestyle.

Beyond water conservation- a way of living in which we use innovative water sources as much as practical, and embrace a sense of place - can support a lifestyle of aesthetics, abundance and adventure. This is what we teach about and model at Sweetwater.

Sweetwater’s expertise is in providing education, workshops, and trainings about these practices for sustainable water management.

Sweetwater offers initial site visit consultations that typically include looking at the feasibility of possible water-wise projects in the landscape, recommendations for other water-wise practices on your site, and learning about innovative water sources for home and garden. Visits are billed at $60 for the first hour or less, and in 15-minute increments at $60/hour for any additional time spent on site. One follow-up email is included in this service. Email to schedule a visit.

Mechanical Water/Condensate Harvesting

Here in Santa Barbara in 2021, we have just been through the rainy season that almost wasn’t. We got a few good downpours and that was about it. Many plants that are usually nourished by the winter rains really didn’t get any significant watering. Soils didn’t get a deep soak to help plants survive without extra irrigation in the spring months. What’s a caring water wise person to do?

At Sweetwater, we are drawn to innovative sources of water. One of these that is rarely talked about is mechanical water harvesting or condensate harvesting (condensate being one type of mechanical water). Although I don’t encourage use of air conditioners, and they may still not be in common use in some parts of our fair city, residents in other areas, and during certain times of the year, are using air conditioners more and more. Climate disruption promises to give us both much hotter days and longer periods without precipitation followed by torrential rains.

“Ample condensate typically collects on the cold coil of air conditioner and refrigerator units, which is often wastefully discarded via a drain or pipe. The hotter and more humid the climate, and/or the more moisture (such as from respiring and perspiring people) in an air-conditioned building; the more condensate air conditioners, refrigerator units, ice machines, and freezers will discharge.” Brad Lancaster,

HVAC condensate from seven buildings at Rice University in Houston…” is captured and pumped back for reuse on campus, primarily as makeup water for the central plant’s cooling towers. …Rice recovers about 14 million gallons of water per year, and that is probably a conservative estimate. That means that instead of buying 14 million gallons of treated, potable water from the city to replenish its cooling towers or tapping the university’s own well, Rice saves a precious resource and a considerable amount of money.

Condensate is considered good water — as pure as distilled water, low in mineral content, and can be used for a number of applications in addition to cooling towers.”

In February 2018, in a hands-on workshop, Sweetwater Collaborative created a tropical garden at Kiva Cowork (formerly Impact Hub) in the Funk Zone. The garden, consisting of a banana tree, two coffee plants, and a passion fruit vine, is watered primarily with air conditioning condensate water. Stop by and see the magnificence of the banana tree, which is in flower with fruit maturing on it at this point in time. All of the plants, tucked in at the corner of the parking lot behind the building at 10 E. Yanonali, are flourishing.


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