Plan B for Paso Robles water shortage
May 13, 2014
OPINION By WALTER HEER
The water problem in Northern San Luis Obispo County is a basic problem that happens in other locations of the country, more water is being pumped from the aquifer than is being replenished.
We are suffering from 70 years of pumping surface water out of the water shed, with none of that being replaced. At the same time pumping from the aquifer has used the reserve that took hundreds of years to build up.
Monterey County has a 60 year history of superior water management, probably as a result of the Salinas River Dam. Meanwhile, in San Luis Obispo Country has a history of mismanagement and fighting over water. It almost, and should have, resulted in the county being split into two counties.
A desirable solution, but far from the only one needed, would be forming a water district to bring in other sources of water. Interesting enough, the main opposition (for whatever reason) to forming a water district seems to be coming from people outside the district.
My fear is that this outside opposition is going to prevent the people who are willing to put up their money for a solution, from being able to go ahead. As a result, I am proposing that San Luis Obispo County implement the following program:
The San Luis Obispo Board of Supervisors vote to accept the state water that we contracted for in the 1060’s at the Polonio Pass debarking point. Build a two mile concrete water pipe along the existing right away for that purpose on the Vogel & Alley Ranchers. The water to be discharged along the Davis Road drainage for one half mile to Cholame Creek which would take it to the main recharge for the Paso Robles aquifer, the Estrella River.
Release of any water allocated by the state for that year should begin on April 1st, be at a rate high enough to create a live stream to Airport Road, but not beyond, and continue at that rate until the allocation is used up.
This water should then be made available for purchase, at cost, of portions of the counties state water contract, to communities affected by the water shortage: Shandon, River Grove/Whitley Gardens, Squirrel Hollow, Branch Road, Jardine Road, Hog Canyon/ Pleasant Valley School, Paso Robles, and San Miguel.
The available water on the state contract should be allocated for purchase by the communities and they be given a seven to 15 year time period to make the purchase. If they do not make the purchase in the allotted time, their water would then be made available to the other communities to purchase.
Stipulations to the purchase of this water: Only 70 percent of the water allocation they purchase may be pumped from the Estrella River Bed. If the state reduced its delivery, their pumping from the river bed should be reduced by the same percentage. That they have an on line well pumping capacity equal to the amount withdrawn from bed, that sits completely idle when the state makes full delivery, and if the delivery is reduced, these wells may only pump the amount of actual reduction in the water they would receive from this purchase.
Pumping from the Estrella River Bed can commence when the live stream reaches 1/8 mile from the pumping point. The well in the river bed to be no more than 100 ft. deep, and pumping is discontinued when their allocation is used, but no later than March 1st of the following year.
Each Community would secure a pumping point convenient for their operations. For Paso Robles it would be at Airport Road and they would pump to their water infrastructure at the airport area. If San Miguel were opt to purchase this water, they could begin pumping from the River Road and Estrella River pumping point when the live stream reaches Airport Road (no restriction on their well depth), and the flow across Airport Road be allowed to equal 100 percent of San Miguel’s allocation of water, although they would only be allowed to pump 70 percent of that from the River bed.
By only pumping 70 pecent of the state deliveries at times the state make full deliveries, and banking a reserve in the aquifer, allows the stand by wells to recover this banked water when the deliveries are reduced, there by balancing the water supply available on any given year.
Walter Heer’s family irrigated and dry farmed in the Estrella area of over 100 years