Debunking some common local water myths
August 26, 2013
By WARREN FRANKEL, M.D., M.S.
Deeper wells are not the problem, they are the solution to our North Coast water issues.
That’s my conclusion, based on a thorough search of existing scientific literature. I’ve identified a number of unfortunate incorrect concepts:
The water underlying the Central Coast is not a giant bathtub or swimming pool. And the word “basin” is a poor choice of wording to describe what’s down there.
Water in the various aquifers — or better, “strata” — are mostly not interconnected, separated by faults.
Deeper wells — 800 feet or more — do not affect the more superficial, 200-foot-level wells.
The Central Coast aquifer is not small; it is huge, and probably the largest in the state, comprising three to five separate strata.
An oft-used example of a specific water issue are the Jardine wells, each of which serves an acre of land from a depth of 200-275 feet. These wells compete with one another, and have nothing to do with 800-foot wells in the Huero Huero, San Juan, Shandon, or Atascadero aquifers.
These are scientific facts:
The huge Central Coast aquifer has many different strata, and those levels are affected by various natural phenomena.
Most of the water in those aquifers is deep.
Aquifers at the 180-250-foot levels are replenished by rainfall, and is currently in negative balance due to a drought. That is not affected by 800-foot wells, as water cannot flow upward.
Deeper 800-foot wells are not running dry, as they are not replenished by rainfall.
And the economy of the Central Coast is largely dependent on tourism, created by the wineries and vineyards.
There are solutions to the water situation.
First, agricultural wells should use deeper wells.
New developments of more than 20 homes should use one or two common deep wells (500 feet or deeper), and not individual wells. The common wells could be the property of homeowners’ associations or a local special water district.
Existing homes that must lower shallow wells can be provided with the opportunity for low-interest loans to lower or redo their wells. These solutions must be individualized based on the conditions of the various aquifers. One size does not fit all.
Also necessary are continuing conservation, sustainable agricultural policies, and supplemental supplies from Naciemiento and state water projects.
And finally, we must rely on scientific data, include opinions of all parties involved, and not rush into new “emergency” regulation just for the sake of doing something.
Warren Frankel, M.D., M.S., is a family practitioner in Templeton; owner of Sculpterra Winery; Frankel Vineyard; and founder of His Healing Hands, a local missionary organization.