Debunking some common local water myths

August 26, 2013
Warren Frankel, M.D., M.S.

Dr. Warren Frankel


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.

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If the deeper strata water sources are not “re-charged” by rainfall, how do they recharge? If the answer is that they don’t, isn’t it very short sighted to pump them dry? Then what happens? Drill deeper still, and repeat the pattern again? This doesn’t sound like an intelligent option.

It’ll work for 50-70 years, who among us here cares beyond that? Debbie don’t.

I have known Dr. Frankel for many years. He is a top notch medical Doctor, and runs one of the finest wineries on the Central Coast. For all those sniping at his writing, please state your background and YOUR accomplishments. Quite possibly it easier to dismiss someone that has done so much, than to learn the facts as he lays them out. Cling to your belief that money, and Big Businees are evil. It’s what keeps all sides divided. And that, never solves a thing…

Cal Poly grad here with a degree in Natural Resources Management. Frankenberry is totally wrong when he states that the water “they” pump is not from rainfall. At one time it fell as rain somewhere. Saltwater does do get filtered to fresh water through the earth. Sorry but no. Fact: We are past the carrying capacity for the water we have. I guess many of you idiots want to see more wells go dry and have picketing at the next wine festival. Want to see a divide with the people? Just wait.

Another Cal Poly grad here, and a masters degree in hydrogeology, and worked for approximately 10 years as a hydrologist and hydrogeologist for private consulting firms and public agencies. Snipe snipe snipe; Dr. Frankel does not know what he is talking about.

As mentioned above, next time somebody had a medical problem, give me a call; i can give you all the “facts” regarding your health issue. And you should trust me, i am a top notch hydrogeologist, and have done so much for the community that i must be correct when it comes to discussing the “facts” of a serious medical issue…ridiculous!

So you have a masters degree in something-or-other. Dr. Frankel is a real doctor (and even if you had a doctorate in something-or-other you would not be a real doctor, more like a chiropractor).

Dr. Frankle, I am not a hydrologist either, but I know enough about engineering, water flow, and geology to find some errors in your facts, and in your logic. 1) Water can indeed flow upward if it is under pressure. Water at a depth of 800 feet is under significantly more pressure than water at 200 feet and will flow upward if the pressure is released and the path is provided. 2) If the aquifer at 800 feet is not replenished by rainfall, how does it replenish? Isn’t it an even worse idea to rely on a fossil water source that may take 100s of years to recharge?

Frankie, that’s one deep pile horse of puckie you are spitting out of your mouth!

I find you to be an hypocrite, you go to other countries to drill wells, but leave us dry.

You are nothing but an carpetbagger! Go back to where you came from and take your buddies with you.

You are raping the land here!

And why do you get to have all that green landscaping and we have do without?

Debbie we are not doing without. What a bunch of hate filled malarkey. He owns his land and water rights just like you do unless you live in town than you pay for it. If your well went dry because you are not in a good water area or did not drill deep enough than drill deeper or move to town and pay for it. You sound like you have no problem stealing water from others yourself.

Dr. Frankel,

You obviously didn’t look at all of the “scientific data” .

I would suggest you go ahead and go after that deeper water. Grape vines love Boron!

This might actually solve the over planting issue. So knock yourself out!

Frankel is just a little biased writing this article. Sorry Frankie but the water from deeper does come from rainfall. Do you honestly think that salt water is somehow magically filtered? Take your recreational drug and you know the rest.

Probably the most important part of Frankel’s op ed: “Warren Frankel, M.D., M.S., is… owner of Sculpterra Winery; Frankel Vineyard”

Quite a self-serving article in all respects.

Saying that the aquifer at 200 feet has nothing to do with the aquifer at 800 feet is wrong. While it’s true that the 800 foot strata will probably not recharge the 200 foot strata (and this is really dependent upon the hydrogeology of the entire aquifer, so it may or may not be true), the common practice is to screen wells through all the available strata, so an 800 foot well will usually connect the upper aquifer to the lower, so they now share some hydrological effects.

The call for solving this with more State water or Nacimiento water is a diversion and is completely counter to his call for more sustainable practices. The two are mutually exclusive – State water and Nacimiento water importation are unsustainable management practices. Sustainability requires us to live within our available resources and we are seriously failing at that – that is what must be fixed. Demand on our limited aquifer must be curtailed and reversed, and the bulk of that demand comes from vineyards and wineries. Frankel attempts to lump these industries in with agriculture, but they really aren’t. Agriculture produces food, wine is a recreational luxury product and we should not allow this recreational luxury product to hoard our water resources by trying to disguise themselves as agriculture.

It is the wineries and vineyards that have driven us to the point of needing an emergency ordinance – we should not be heeding their protestations that one is not needed. One is needed desperately to allow time for a considered, thoughtful, long-term solution to this crisis.

Screw you, drill now, rip now. What are you, a communist?

No need to get testy, Comrade.

That’s my conclusion, based on a thorough search of existing scientific literature. I’ve identified a number of unfortunate incorrect concepts:

Dr Frankel:

1 Are you a hydrologist?

2. How long Have your vineyards been extracting from the Paso basin?

3. What research are you relying on? Can you site the publication/s and authors and their credentials and backgrounds?

Another self serving don’t rush . delay tactic…STOP WATER EXPANSION NOW


We don’t want facts. We don’t want a rational progression of thought.

We want action. We want sympathy for being little guys who are wronged by big guys. We want blood. We’re mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore.

We don’t care if we’re right or wrong. We are many, and we are pissed.

We also don’t think we are part of the problem.

And we don’t appreciate you pitting Jardinero against Jardinero by saying that we are competing with each other for the 200′ water.

Well, I care if we are correct or incorrect.

I don’t think Mr. Frankel has a realistic approach to his statements about the groundwater upon which the majority of us depend for potable water.

Those who use groundwater need to use it in a sustainable manner, and that means not irrigating vineyards in such an arid region like Paso. GW basins in arid regions are far more likely to become contaminated by salts (especially those used for high-water and -fertilizer use crops, such as grapes), and the more groundwater is pumped and repumped, the more quickly it becomes saline.

One of those salts that build up over time is nitrates (one of the causes of blue-baby syndrome). There are many agricultural areas where the groundwater can no longer be consumed by humans because of unsafe agricultural practices over the years.

Certainly, the answer to our water problem is not to “drill, baby, drill”! It takes millennia for water to accumulate in some of the confined water aquifers.

To address a greedy, over-consumption of water which is running wells dry by drilling more deeply is insane.

The only sane approach to dealing with the water-shortage disaster the “drill-baby-drill” policies of the SLO County board of supervisors over the years are creating is to reverse those harmful, unsustainable practices.

The most egregious waste of the Paso GW basin’s precious water is clearly by the vineyards and wine-makers. The precipitous drop in GW levels has walked in lock-step with the avarice and greed of the gluttonous vineyard industry.

Storing precious groundwater in those water-wasting water ponds (in an arid region, no less!) needs to be stopped immediately.

Meters–installed and read by the county–need to installed for all well users.

Vineyards must switch to dry farming. It can be done, and it should be the only way of growing grapes in arid regions.

If we are going to stop this overdraft crisis the county supervisors, over the years, and greedy agricultural interests (and not all agricultural interests are water hogs), have created, we need to turn back the clock–and FAST–to sustainable methods of using water.