Montecito Water District officials are cautiously optimistic that managers of Oprah Winfrey’s two Montecito properties have brought the media mogul’s spigots under control after Winfrey’s water consumption dropped 40 percent between this July and last July. Since Winfrey moved into Montecito, water consumption at her “Promised Land” properties have more than doubled.

In 2007, Winfrey consumed 10.6 million gallons to keep her 40 acres lush. In 2006, she used 10.7 million gallons. Efforts by district managers-struggling to close a 700 acre-foot gap between district supply and demand-to meet with Winfrey or her assistants have gone nowhere fast.

They won’t see us,” explained water district manager Tom Mosby. “They’re very private, and trying to get in has proved very difficult.”

Mosby is struggling not just with high-profile celebrities like Winfrey, but with thousands of well-heeled customers whom Mosby claims are drastically overwatering their landscaping. He said in the 280 water audits his district has conducted, he’s been able to reduce water use by 10-30 percent with no damage to the plants. For the past two years, Montecitans have been using substantially more water than the district can safely provide-enough to meet the water needs of as many as 700 families, in fact. Both years, the district bought additional state water on the spot water market, this year for an additional cost of $816,000.

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