Water is NOT necessary. I don't advise using water as a heat sink, the unit holds moisture in just fine and adding water will just degrade the BBQ itself (the rubs and such will never set).
As for the element getting to temp to fast, it works fine that way, I wouldn't agree with adding water to make it do something different.
You're trying to mix what happens in other smokers with this smoker.
If you use chips, they'll burn up too quick. I only suggest chips or pellets if you're trying to cold smoke.
If the wood is not burning, and you're putting it in the front, and the unit has been checked at it's up to temp, then it's the wood.
Keep in mind, that unless it's a really long cook, it MAY not turn to ash ever. The wood isn't burning to create heat, just smoke. So having unburned wood is only an issue if you never got any smoke at all.