In 1886, President William Henry Harrison granted rights for a water tunnel to be cut into the mountainside above Santa Barbara’s southern coast. The idea was to capture shallow groundwater from mountaintop springs before it was lost between the rocks as it flowed downhill. It was an attempt to liberate California from drought during years when as little as one quarter of annual rainfall reached bone-dry soil.
Design and construction began soon thereafter and continued for decades. Today, over a century later, the original pipe continues to stretch 2,500 feet across uneven terrain, around land easements and through the test of time. This rare tunnel now provides us with a wellspring that feeds the Bel Lavoro orchards, naturally irrigating our groves by a simple-yet-ingenious system. It is an invaluable gift granted to us by generations past and, thanks to it, our trees never thirst.