Frequently Asked Questions









Who do I call during storm events when there is a flooding concern?    top

If there is an emergency where there is major flooding and you or others are at risk, call 911.
If there are creek blockages causing flooding call the Flood Control District.
For road system issues or flooding in the unincorporated areas call County Roads.
In incorporated areas call the City you reside in.

Contact Info

Flood Control District - (805) 568-3440
County Roads - South Coast – (805) 681-5678
County Roads - Lompoc / Santa Ynez – (805) 737-7773
County Roads - Santa Maria – (805) 934-6100
City of Santa Barbara - (805) 564-5413
Santa Barbara Airport - (805) 967-7111
City of Goleta - (805) 961-7500
City of Carpinteria - (805) 684-5405
City of Solvang - (805) 688-5575
City of Buellton - (805) 688-5177
City of Lompoc - (805) 736-1261
City of Santa Maria - (805) 925-0951
City of Guadalupe - (805) 343-1340

Do I live in a flood hazard area?    top

The Flood Control District has access to FEMA's Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM) which identifies the Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA) within Santa Barbara County. The SFHA are those areas which would be inundated by flood waters during a 100-year flood. This flooding event has a 1% chance of occurring in any given year. You can determine if you are in a federally designated SFHA in the following ways:

1. Request a Flood Hazard Determination from the Santa Barbara County Flood Control and Water Conservation District for a fee of $40.

2. Go to the FEMA Flood Map Service Center (MSC) which is the official public service for flood hazard information produced in support of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Santa Barbara County does not provide the information found on this webpage and shall not be liable for any errors, omissions, or damages that result from inappropriate use of this information.

I want to receive a floodplain map from FEMA. Can I get it online?    top

You can view floodplain data in the FEMA Map Service Center online at . You can call and order floodplain maps in the U.S. by calling toll-free 1-800-358-9616.

How can I obtain information about flooding and safeguarding my property?    top

The Flood Control District has a number of free publications made available to the public. The "Homeowner's Guide to Flood Prevention and Response" contains many ideas for safeguarding your property from flooding and  minimizing damage.  Click here to view the document. We also have publications prepared by FEMA, the State of California, and other agencies responsible for providing flood prevention information.

What is the difference between a flood watch and a flood warning?    top

The following is a list of definitions commonly used by the National Weather Service. See the following website for information regarding weather in your area:

Advisory (Abbrev. ADVY) - Highlights special weather conditions that are less serious than a warning. They are for events that may cause significant inconvenience, and if caution is not exercised, it could lead to situations that may threaten life and/or property.

Report - A weather report is a statement of the actual weather conditions observed at a specific time at a specific site

Severe Weather Statement - A National Weather Service product which provides follow up information on severe weather conditions (severe thunderstorm or tornadoes) which have occurred or are currently occurring.

Warning - A warning is issued when a hazardous weather or hydrologic event is occurring, is imminent, or has a very high probability of occurring. A warning is used for conditions posing a threat to life or property.

Watch - A watch is used when the risk of a hazardous weather or hydrologic event has increased significantly, but its occurrence, location, and/or timing is still uncertain. It is intended to provide enough lead time so that those who need to set their plans in motion can do so.

Generally speaking, what are the primary concerns of the various Santa Barbara County watersheds?    top

South Coast - South Coast Watersheds are steep and have short times of concentration. Conditions may change rapidly with high intensity rain, particularly with wet watersheds.

Santa Ynez River - Significant flooding is generally not a concern until seasonal rainfall exceeds 15 inches in the upper watershed and Cachuma Lake is full.

Santa Maria River (which includes the Sisquoc and Cuyama watersheds) - The levee protecting the City of Santa Maria and surrounding area is a concern at flows as low as 4,500 cfs.

Cuyama River - Primary concern is washout of Highway 166.


Where can I get sandbags?    top

Sand and bags are available from many local hardware and building supply stores. Sand and bags are made available to the public by the County and many Cities during periods of extreme flooding conditions. Residents are urged not to wait for sand and bags from the County as timing of availability is uncertain.  Click here for more information.

How do I place sandbags?    top

Sandbags are best when half filled with sand. The filled bags should offset other bags. See the following brochure for more information: Fight Flooding at Home.


How do I prevent erosion of creek banks on my property?    top

Certain methods of bank stabilization can help to slow erosion during periods of high flows. These include planting fast growing native vegetation, the addition of tree revetments, geotextiles, and other bio-technical strategies discussed in the County's publication, "Santa Barbara County Creek Care Guide".

What can I do if the creek bank on my property is already eroding?    top

In general, creek banks are usually located on private property and bank erosion is a natural process. To help stop erosion, property owners can try to establish fast growing native vegetation. In some extreme instances, a hardened treatment such as a wall or rock slope protection may be sought, although these applications can be expensive. Also, permits from the State Fish and Game Department, as well as the City or County may be needed. In these extreme cases, professional engineering assistance is recommended from a local civil engineer. The County is not responsible for any erosion that occurs on private property and therefore not responsible for repairs of any such erosion.


If a tree falls on my property who will remove it?    top

Frequently, the County will remove trees that have fallen in a creek channel, typically in urban areas and that have a potential to cause flooding problems. Many trees fall before, during, and after storm events. However, only trees that are determined to be a potential flood threat and under County jurisdiction will be considered for removal by the County.

If a tree falls near a creek, or falls from a creek onto my property, will the County remove it?    top

The County is not responsible for removing fallen trees located on private property. Most trees are located on private property and are therefore considered private property. To determine the owner of a fallen tree you can contact the County Surveyor's Office to view available maps.

If the County has an easement does that make a difference?    top

In general, no. Easements do not transfer property ownership. In general, an easement grants specific rights, for example, access, or the right to remove material from the channel.

Will my insurance cover the cost of tree removal?    top

You should contact your insurance agent for coverage information.


Do I need flood insurance?    top

You may need flood insurance if you are located in a flood-prone area. Nine out of every ten disasters in California involves flooding. In the life of a 30-year mortgage, a home located in a special flood hazard area has a 1% chance of being destroyed by fire, but a 26% chance of being destroyed by a flood. That is, such a home is 26 times as likely to be destroyed by flooding than by fire.

In 1979, Santa Barbara County became a participating community in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and federal flood insurance became available to residents of the county. Without federal flood insurance, recovery from flood damage to your home is usually unavailable due to the increased risk to private insurance companies. As a condition of NFIP, the Santa Barbara County Flood Control and Water Conservation District adopted Floodplain Management Ordinances that meet, and in some instances exceed, the Federal requirements for development in flood-prone areas. Federal law requires lending institutions to secure home loans with flood insurance for those homes located within special flood hazard areas. Subsequently, these lending institutions pass the requirement for flood insurance onto the homebuyer.

Flood insurance requirements can also be triggered by refinancing a loan on flood-prone property. In most cases, you are notified by your lending institution that your home or the property is located within a special flood hazard area. At that time, you may need to obtain flood insurance or the lender can "force place" insurance on your loan (usually at the highest premium for maximum coverage).

In most cases, the Flood Control District can inform you of whether or not your property is required to carry flood insurance for a fee of $40.  District staff utilizes FEMA's Digital Flood Insurance Rate Maps (DFIRM) to make this determination. Flood Maps are available for inspection at the Flood Control and Water Conservation District Office located at the Naomi Schwartz Building, 130 E. Victoria Street, Suite 200, in downtown Santa Barbara.  This information is also available from other (third party) sources.

How do I obtain flood insurance?    top

Call your local, licensed casualty or property insurance agent, or the National Flood Insurance Hotline at 1-800-427-4661. You can also visit their website at:

How much does flood insurance cost?    top

The cost of flood insurance varies based on the structure's actuarial risk of flooding.  Contact your flood insurance provider for more information.

Can I be insured for flood damage right away?    top

There is a 30-day waiting period for effective coverage except for initial purchase of flood insurance when one makes, increases, renews or extends a Federally insured loan or if a structure is placed into a SFHA (Special Flood Hazard Area) after a map change.

If I have flood insurance and my home is destroyed by mudflow and debris, am I still covered?    top

Yes, if the event meets the criteria in your federal flood insurance policy: ".... mudslide i.e.: mudflow caused by flooding, as defined in subparagraph A2. Subparagraph A2: The unusual or rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source, or akin to a river of liquid and flowing mud on the surfaces of normally dry land areas." If you have flood insurance, and your home is partially or completely destroyed and you need to make a claim, photos of the event (from a safe distance) can help expedite your claim.


Where can I get information on rainfall, reservoirs, and rivers?    top

The  Hydrology Section maintains a website for information on rainfall for many locations throughout Santa Barbara County. The website also discusses water storage in the county's major reservoirs, information on Santa Ynez River flows and flood history, and other technical data related to precipitation and runoff.

Where can I find information about my water bill?    top

Although the County Water Agency conducts water supply related studies and provides public information on water, it does not sell water. For information about your water service or your water bill, please contact your local water district. Check your water bill for this information or use the list below.

Carpinteria Valley Water District (805)684-2816
Golden State Water Company (Orcutt) (800)999-4033
Cuyama Community Services District (805)766-2780
City of Buellton (805)688-5177
City of Guadalupe (805)343-1340
City of Lompoc (805)736-1261
City of Santa Barbara (805)564-5460
City of Santa Maria (805)925-0951
City of Solvang (805)688-5575
Goleta Water District (805)964-6761
La Cumbre Mutual Water Company (805)967-2376
Los Alamos Community Services District (805)344-4195
Mission Hills Community Services District (805)733-4366
Montecito Water District (805)969-2271
Santa Ynez River Water Conservation District, ID#1 (805)688-6015
Vandenberg Village Community Services District (805)733-2475

How can I save money on my water bill?    top

The County Water Agency and your water providers offer many water conservation programs that can help you to save water and money.Go to the water conservation webpage at   to find information on efficient landscape watering, tips on saving water and available rebate programs for businesses.

How can I report water pollution?    top

To report illegal dumping or water pollution in storm drains, creeks or the ocean, call the county-wide water quality hotline at 1-877-OUR-OCEAN (1-877-687-6232)

How can I get the quality of my water tested?    top

All water purveyors are required by state law to provide information on the quality of the water they serve. This information is mailed annually to all water customers. If you would like a copy of the most recent water quality report from your water purveyor, please call the appropriate purveyor listed above. If you would like your tap or well water tested by an independent laboratory, check the yellow pages of the phone book under "Laboratories."

I have a well on my property. How can I find out historical groundwater levels for my area?    top

With the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), the task of monitoring groundwater levels will become the responsibility of the local Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSA).  For more information or to see if there is a GSA formed in your area, please visit the County's SGMA webpage.  Information on groundwater levels is also contained in the Santa Barbara County Groundwater Resources Report. For a copy of the report or for specific questions about groundwater levels, please call 805-568-3546.

My daughter is writing a report on water resources in the county. Where can she get information?    top

For more information on water resources in the County visit the Water Agency homepage and the Regional Water Efficiency Program website.  

For more information, or to request a flood hazard determination, contact the Santa Barbara County Flood Control and Water Conservation District at 805-568-3440 or write to:

Santa Barbara County Flood Control and
Water Conservation District
130 E. Victoria St., Suite 200
Santa Barbara, CA 93101