SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -

Santa Barbara City Council members declared a Stage One Drought Tuesday.

The declaration is considered the first stage in creating a conservation and water purchasing plan.

The city is asking residents and businesses to reduce water use by 20 percent.

Santa Barbara is experiencing a third consecutive dry year. Last year was the driest year on record in most of California. Santa Barbara’s winter rainfall is  14 percent of the average.

The city declared a similar drought declaration in the late 1980's. Council member Randy Rowse remembers how residents managed to drop their usage by 40 percent.

To combat a possible water shortages next year the council voted unanimously to direct the public works director to purchase 4500 acre feet of water.  The proposed purchase would not raise water rates.  The estimated $3.3 million cost would come from a reserve fund.

Council members are urging people with sprinkler timers to shut them off for at least 10 days after it rains or water manually to conserve.

The City’s Water Conservation Program offers a free water checkup. Residents may make appointments by calling  805-564-5460.