Local hospitals and businesses trying to cut back on their water bills will get a little help from the Santa Barbara County Water Agency, thanks to over $100,000 in federal grant money.

The Water Agency received four grants, worth a total of $134,760, in October from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Water Conservation Field Service Program. Santa Barbara County Water Agency Manager Rob Almy said the agency will spend the funds on a series of programs that should help reduce water use in local hospitals and businesses, as well as the amount of water used for landscape and agricultural irrigation in the area.

Almy said some of the grant money will fund the X-Ray Processor Rebate Project, a program that helps hospitals cover the costs of replacing their old x-ray processors with more efficient models. The processors, which are used to develop X-ray film, currently require large amounts of running water at all times.

Water Agency Program Specialist Helena Wiley said hospitals would be able to receive a rebate to upgrade to more conservation-friendly equipment.

“It’s essentially free for them,” Wiley said. “Within six months we will have given out a couple of rebates.”

Almy said grant money will also fund the Commercial Rebate Program that allows business owners and local college residence halls to replace older, inefficient appliances – such as washing machines, showerheads, spray nozzles and urinals – with newer models.

“You’ll start seeing new washing machines in some of the laundromats and larger residence halls, and you’ll see new things like waterless urinals,” Almy said.

According to a Water Agency newsletter, $90,000 of the grant money will go toward the county’s Landscape Water Budget Project. Under the program, agency customers with landscape irrigation meters would receive a proposed water budget, telling them how much water their property requires based on the property’s size, the types of plants present and the rate at which water evaporates from the soil.

Wiley said the individualized budgets will be sent out with people’s regular water bills.

“Anyone who has a water meter dedicated to agriculture will see a graph with their bill comparing their [water] use to the ideal amount they should be using,” Wiley said.

Almy said the agency will also continue to give rebates to people who purchase satellite receivers for their irrigation systems. The receivers download information from the California Irrigation Management Information System – which consists of a network of weather satellites – that helps growers administer the right amount of water for each part of their gardens based on the amount of rain in the area.

The Green Gardener Program, which teaches commercial gardeners how to reduce water and chemical use, will also receive funds from the grant, Almy said. He said local residents should start seeing the effects of the money by January 2007.

“You’ll start seeing these things by the first of the year,” Almy said.

According to the newsletter, money from the grant will also fund a $5,000 retrofitting project for the Santa Maria Valley Sustainable Garden, a model garden that demonstrates various ways for landscapers to reduce their water use. The Cachuma Resource Conservation District, a program that helps growers reduce their water use while irrigating crops, also received $5,000 for its advertising costs.