A growing flood of North County water concerns
February 29, 2008
By DANIEL BLACKBURN
Water has been a major concern of North County residents ever since the mid 1990s, when vineyards started multiplying like tipsy rabbits and housing projects were being approved by local government as fast as they could be proposed.
That has put a strain on underground aquifers, water which provides nearly all of the supplies for all uses in the North County. As a result, residents are exhibiting a growing awareness of problems associated with growth and development.
Now, with the region still one of the more affordable in San Luis Obispo County, North County citizens appear almost unified in fretting about several important land use issues.
A privately-funded survey conducted by the Progressive Network Group of San Luis Obispo suggests that 91 percent of those interviewed for the survey were “very” or “somewhat” worried about future water supplies. The survey was limited to voters in the First Supervisorial District, and was intended to isolate areas of anxiety regarding future development decisions.
Tom Rusch, a retired Cal State Los Angeles professor emeritus who started the citizen group PasoWatch, said he and others “share a real concern” about a water supply adequate to provide for significant increases in residential and business growth. That, he said recently, was why he and a group of friends decided to determine in a scientific fashion if their worries were shared by others.
The resulting survey, said Rusch, should provide a guideline for decisions made by policy-makers when considering future development projects.
When asked about the best way to ensure an adequate supply in years to come, survey respondents were divided: 28 percent said they wanted to see the Nacimiento Pipeline built, but a larger number, 29 percent, saw “other means” as a preferred alternative. Stringent conservation was favored by 18 percent; State Water Project, 11 percent; desalting, 10 percent; and all of these, 3 percent.
As to the question of who should pay for new infrastructure needed to supply additional water, the survey showed that voters are split between local government and developers, 33 percent to 29 percent. A third of respondents want to find yet another source to cover those expenses.
Preservation of open space won 88 percent approval by survey takers, while 12 percent said they were “not at all” concerned.