Judge sides with Nipomo in South County water dispute

March 14, 2016

waterwarA Santa Clara judge has tentatively rejected a legal bid by three South County cities to halt new development and new groundwater pumping on the Nipomo Mesa. [Tribune]

As part of a longstanding battle over the use of the Santa Maria groundwater basin, the cities of Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach and Pismo Beach filed suit against Nipomo Mesa water providers last year. The South County cities alleged Nipomo Mesa water providers have over pumped the basin, which is preventing underground recharge from reaching the northern part of the basin and is raising the risk of saltwater intrusion in wells.

Attorneys for the three South County cities filed the lawsuit in Santa Clara Superior Court. They requested a court order prohibiting new wells, new development and new water entitlement on the Nipomo Mesa until the overpumping stops and more water is imported to the area.

In 2008, a judge ordered Nipomo to import 2,500 acre feet of water. The Nipomo CSD then embarked on a project to build a water pipeline from Santa Maria to the Mesa.

The CSD recently completed the first phase of the project, but it was only projected to bring in 650 acre-feet of water in the first year. The pipeline is not expected to deliver 2,500 acre-feet of water annually until around 2025.

On Feb. 26, Santa Clara Judge Peter Kirwan, known as an expert in water law, issued a tentative ruling that stated the Nipomo Mesa water providers did not appear to be complying with the 2008 judgment. However, the court does not have the power to stop all new development, Kirwan ruled.

If the court were to put a halt to new development, it would likely trigger lawsuits from developers whose projects have already been approved, Kirwan stated.

Both sides of the South County groundwater dispute must now meet and discuss solutions. They are then scheduled to appear in court on May 12.

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Saw this piece a bit late, but thought I would like to go on record anyway. One of the ways to increase groundwater is to restore the land to a more normal ecology, instead of channeling water to run off as fast as possible. This includes techniques like bios-wales on both public and private property, to channel runoff onto land to sink in. Another technique is gray water systems or homes, to reuse laundry water on landscaping and flushing toilets, etc., where potable water is not necessary.. Rain catchment systems for roof collection is great for this as well. In some places, people treat this water for consumption. But a really great one that most people are not aware of is BEAVERS. The Central Coast had beavers as a natural part of the ecosystem up until the ’60’s, when Fish and Game removed them, for “convenience”. They provided natural off-stream storage of water for the environment, wildlife and the enhancement of groundwater conditions. And the bonus of this is that they work for free. At least a third of the water they would capture ends up in the watershed. That adds up, with the added enhancement of biodiversity from the restoration of what was previously part of the balance here. For those of you who like to fish, the creeks would be much more robust with Steelhead, etc. They are very cheap to manage and THEY WORK FOR FREE. Just a thought..

So, the County won’t deal with the issue and the exalted Judge Kirwan won’t tell developers to stop. This doesn’t bode well for those basins with issues, Looks like the developers just got a green light to write their own ticket.

Pismo is not alone. AG approved a 50 room hotel and now a guy wants to build 90 rooms and 60 homes on East Cherry!

The commercial users have not been required to reduce yet the citizens are being fined and paying tiered rates ( double fining!)

it seems like AG wants the TOT tax and damn the residents!

Pismo Beach is moving full speed ahead with development (including two new hotels) while asking the residents to curtail water use. Now they join in a suit to stop development elsewhere. In addition to the cost of attorney fees wasted in prosecuting the law suit, the hypocrisy in bring this action speaks to where the Pismo council places their priorities: in generating bed tax at the detrement of their citizens.

SLO_Johnny has a good point. It’s smart thinking. What will it take to get out politicians to heed this advice?

I read that South County water will be a SGMA issue before any new entitlements are approved? The alternative will be to build beyond the available resources thence everyone will pay more for less until broken.

Excellent point…

Before ANY further development, especially large vineyards, large hotels or housing developments are approved by the county for building, this needs to be addressed… There is no concrete offsets being done for the increased water consumption, especially by the luxury end users. We do not need these developments for basic survival, but we all need the water for survival…

I’ll say it again, direct injection of storm water is the solution to these issues. We have a lot of water but we let it just pour into the ocean. Direct injection also solves the saltwater intrusion problem. This technique is being used for many decades in other areas and it works well. The water only requires a little pre-treatment and the bacteria under the ground clean it up quickly. It is the most economical answer to the water supply problem.