Sweetwater Collaborative is a local Santa Barbara nonprofit that was founded in January 2013. We became a 501c3 tax exempt organization in August 2016.
We focus on water wise education and re-landscaping, through classes, presentations and community hands-on workshops where we install sustainable features like rain gardens, greywater systems, rain tanks, foot forests and Mediterranean or native landscapes. We emphasis keeping or putting carbon in the soil by increasing soil biology and permeability through the combination of mulch, rainwater, compost tea and appropriate plants. Once or twice a year, we offer Sweet Water Wise Tours of properties that we have helped to transform with beautiful, water saving landscapes. We aim to give the support and guidance that each community member needs to be able to make the water wise changes that are right for their context. Sweetwater uses Sociocracy as our governance model which honors every member’s opinion and voice.
Since February 2016, Sweetwater has been offering Rainwater Harvesting 101 and Greywater 101 classes almost every month, co-sponsored by water agencies and/or governments in Santa Barbara, Goleta, and Carpinteria. The classes run for an hour and a half and include basic concepts and how-to information about these practices. We also periodically give similar presentations for private groups and organizations.
Sweetwater does consultations, design, and installations of greywater and rainwater harvesting systems, food forests and drought tolerant and edible landscapes. We work with homeowners, organizations, businesses and neighborhoods in a variety of capacities--from simple laundry systems or earthworks and rain gardens, and tanks without pumps done in workshops, with work crews, and more complex permitted systems done through our network of landscape contractors and other professionals.
Our community hands-on workshops are one of the foundations of our work.
During workshops, volunteers work as a team with others in the outdoor space of an HOA, community or government organization, or business. The workshops run for four or five hours during which 6-8 volunteers are directed in the work. Hosts are asked to provide lunch, snacks and drinks for the volunteers. Our workshops are social work parties that create dramatic results. They bring knowledge of environmental stewardship into the mainstream. We reduce water demand, reduce energy demand, and localize food production. The workshop model makes “going green” affordable and improves quality of life for the participants as well as the hosts who get a new system in their home.
An interested party may request an initial site visit by Sweetwater. This educational consultation is geared towards identifying water wise changes that can be made to private or public property, neighborhood streets and parkways, schools, or any other landscape, determining the feasibility of potential projects, and how we might work together. Initial site visits are often our first contact with community members wanting to make a shift to water wise systems in their home, office, place of worship, or neighborhood. We help build the right kind of support for an individual, family, HOA, business, or organization to move forward on such projects, whether they do the work themselves, have a trusted friend or employee do the installation, or avail themselves to more of Sweetwater's services in design, consulting and coaching, or installations in workshops.
One aspect of our workshop model is barn-raising credits, to give more of a financial incentive to workshop hosts as well as build community. If you volunteer 20 hours, approx. 4 workshops at other's homes, or do other volunteer service for Sweetwater, you get a $200 discount off the cost of hosting a workshop yourself.
Besides our initial site visits, Sweetwater does more focused consulting and coaching on DIY or staff driven water-wise projects, including one-on-one coaching as a property owner or employee of the organization installs a water-wise system for their organization, offices, or other property. Email and phone coaching is also available or may be combined with on-site visits. Coaching often follows engaging us to do a design for the project in mind.
We have consulted with HOAs and management of apartment complexes along with their landscaping staff to explore ways they can implement rainwater harvesting and landscape practices that reduce water use and waste. We will continue to explore ways we can reach broader sections of our community to help them become more water wise while enhancing aesthetics and functionality in their landscapes.
Sweetwater has hosted Technical Round Tables for Landscape Professionals almost every month since September 2015, and have been working on developing hands-on vocational training for maintenance gardeners and other landscapers to teach best practices in making our landscapes more water wise.
Check out our good work at http://sweetwatercollaborative.org and read about us at http://www.independent.com/news/2016/apr/14/sweetwater-collaborative-are-water-wizards-drought/