With no end to the drought in sight, officials in Santa Barbara, California, have decided to impose more severe restrictions on water usage. The city council is expected to take up mandatory conservation, which would include banning certain outdoor water uses and raising the cost of water at higher usages.

The city's main source of water, Cachuma Lake, is now down to 39 percent of capacity.  Santa Barbara has been replenishing the lake by importing water via the California Aqueduct. But even that water is facing restrictions, so city officials are struggling to find alternatives.

One option, they say, is the revival of Santa Barbara’s long-retired desalination plant. But because desalination is a rather costly process, the city hopes that the new mandates will correct their water issues first. Desalination, they say, will be a last resort, done only after all other efforts fail.  

For now, Santa Barbara will focus its efforts on conservation. “Reducing landscape irrigation by replacing lawns with drought-tolerant plants remains a top priority,” said Alison Jordan, Santa Barbara's water conservation supervisor.