Strategic priorities for San Luis Obispo County

August 12, 2013
Debbie Arnold

Debbie Arnold


1) Dry Wells

Our top priority must be assisting those residents with dry wells.

a) If wells weren’t dry, the decline of the basin would be a problem, not a crisis.

b) Urgency is required because wells are going dry, and therefore urgency actions should focus first and foremost on dealing with the dry wells.

c) Each year this county has purchased the right to approximately 25,000 acre-feet of state water. However, we only take roughly 8,500 acre-feet and sell the balance of water that our residents have paid for. Rather than that water coming into our county, the profits from the sale of that water goes into a reserve account held here at the county by the Flood Control District (estimated $4.5 million).


Prepare a staff report detailing options for how the Flood Control District’s reserve fund could be used to assist those residents whose wells have gone dry. Include a discussion of options for both financial assistance as well as supplemental water, such as, but not limited to:

How could the county Flood Control District provide low interest loans to affected residents?

How could the county Flood Control District use this reserve to help fund inspections of wells in order to advise residents regarding options (e.g. a failed pump vs. the need for a new well)?

How could the county Flood Control District use this reserve to help secure immediate supplemental water for the hardest hit regions of the basin (e.g. including targeted recharge)?

How could the county Flood Control District use this reserve to help fund the infrastructure necessary to procure supplemental water?

2) Stop Waste

Waste is occurring today, and is something we can stop immediately.

a) Other counties have focused on eliminating waste because it is simple, has immediate impact, and does not produce unintended consequences.

b) Conservation strategies that engage all basin users equally increase the county’s ability to raise the public’s awareness about the water issue and make all basin users part of the solution.


1. Identify additional urgency ordinance language targeting water waste and conservation strategies.

a. Look at Los Angeles County’s urgency conservation ordinance as an example.

3) Manage Demand

Urgency restrictions should be targeted and careful to avoid unintended consequences.

a) Our economy is just beginning to slowly recover.

b) We must exercise extreme care and caution to avoid actions that cost people across this county their property values, jobs or small businesses.

(1) Our actions should make the situation in the North County better – not make a bad situation worse by adopting ordinances that fail to impact the problem, but then do damage to people’s property values and the local economy.

c) The current staff report is a list of ordinances, but does not provide any data quantifying the benefits or impacts of any of the itemized options.

(1) Without specific data, our Board is left to simply close our eyes, reach into the bag and arbitrarily draw out a restrictive ordinance.

(2) We have a public duty to take informed action, not arbitrary action.

d) Let me be clear – nothing in this staff report is inherently unsupportable. If the situation and data supported any of these options as best for the overall needs of our community, I could support any of these items.

i) But right now, I don’t have enough information to analyze, evaluate or compare any of these options. It is just a list.


Update the staff report to include

1) For each of the urgency land use ordinances listed, identify the number of properties and projects that would currently meet the criteria identified in the staff report. For example:

How many projects are currently in the ‘pipeline’ using the various criteria identified in the staff report?

How many properties subject to each of the various proposals currently have financial or other contractual obligations that would be affected by any of the proposed ordinances?

What are the legal implications of adopting an ordinance that adversely impacts an existing contract?

2) How much water would be saved by adopting each of the proposed ordinances?

Provide the supporting data that would allow the board to identify high-impact regions.

3) The economic impact of each of the proposed ordinances, including

Impacts to the land owners directly subject to each of the proposed ordinances

Impacts to industries related to and dependent upon the properties targeted for restricts (e.g. restaurants, hotels, tourist serving small businesses, agricultural manufacturing, labor, etc)

4) Public Process

The staff report raises the issue of public process and the significant interest amongst stakeholders to be involved in these decisions.

a) When we are talking about people’s ability to access water on their property, their investments, their property values, their jobs and livelihoods, we must make time to listen and make sure we understand the full impacts of the decisions that we are making.

b) But this doesn’t need to be a new process that requires additional time.

c) The Blue Ribbon Committee created by this board has that diverse stakeholder representation.


I would like to request that the Blue Ribbon Committee prepare a response to the various urgency ordinances identified in this staff report.

Include a discussion of the various points of view represented on the committee, or the Solutions Sub-committee.

Does the Committee or Solutions Sub-committee recommend any of these urgency ordinances, and if so, which do they believe will provide the greatest benefit?






Mrs. Arnold:

The “unintended consequences,” for which you express so much concern, are already here! Vineyards were allowed to plant thousands of acres of grapes, far beyond the carrying capacity of our water resources, and the “unintended consequence” is that the aquifer is in sever overdraft and our friends and neighbors have had their wells run dry. Now the vineyards and “water bankers” are building huge storage reservoirs, and the “unintended consequence” of this is that more and more people will run out of water, rendering their homes uninhabitable and their property worthless.

These are the people who voted you into office, Mrs. Arnold. I know they aren’t the people who bankroll you and provide you with the money to win and keep your office, but don’t you think you should at least TRY to represent the citizens of your district? This water-grab is anti-democracy and anti-capitalist; is that really what you stand for? You didn’t say so when you ran for office, but your actions are painting that picture of you.


Debbie, you have missed the point. The first step is to save our over-drafted aquifer by a moratorium on new vineyards and new plantings. If you don’t do that, then you can kiss the aquifer goodby.

You do realize that just providing low interest loans to people with dry wells that need to redrill will not solve the problem. If someone accepts a loan, and drills a new well and comes up dry, then they might as well declare bankruptcy and walk away. I understand that one of our city councilmen in Paso drilled a 1000 ft. well he had to walk away from, and drill again. Luckily, he had the money to drill twice.

If you don’t understand the situation any better than this, then you should resign. You are asking county staff to provide data that they can’t provide, i.e. how much water will be saved by different proposals. If we don’t know how much water is being used except by dropping water levels, then how could we possibly know how much will be saved (in advance).

Go back to county officials and reread the studies on the aquifer overdraft. You just don’t get it, and you’re listening to the winery owners, and your own Bill P. in Templeton. They don’t understand the corporate winery take over now taking place, and the water rights give away being proposed by PRAAG.


In heard Debbie read this at the BOS meeting. At that time it sounded like she was reading something she was not familiar with – as if it had been written by someone else. If the aquifer is in overdraft and wells are dry then we need to stop drilling and look for a solution. This problem will only get worse; to delay is to make things get worse faster. Shame on you Debbie.

need water

Didn’t it sound just like Mike Brown’s COLAB comments?


Pathetic. Debbie has apparently just fell off the turnip truck.


Debbie, did you run this article past lobbyist Mike Brown during one of your weekly meetings with him before sending it to CCN? Did he help you write it?


Is this how we do things now? Questions from “on high” that need to be answered and then, later, ignored? Debbie, you are a supervisor, why don’t you do some of this work and research? For example, using one of those new-fangled computer things, in four clicks I got this, the Los Angeles Emergency Water Conservation plans:

Phase 1:

Watering paved surfaces is prohibited without a department-approved water-conserving nozzle

Water used for aesthetic purposes (fountains, ponds, etc.) must be recirculated

Water shouldn’t be served to customers in food service locations unless explicitly requested

Any leak from a water pipe or fixture must be repaired

Watering or use of irrigation systems is banned from 9 a.m. to 4p.m.

During periods of rain, irrigation is prohibited

Spray head sprinklers/bubblers restricted to 10 minutes per watering day. Standard rotors/multi-stream rotary heads restricted to two 15-minute cycles per watering day. Low-flow drip irrigations are exempt.

When washing vehicles, hoses with shut-off nozzles must be used

Large landscape areas must use rain sensors to trigger shut off

New developments are prohibited from using single pass cooling systems

New commercial car wash and laundry systems must use recirculating systems

Hotels customers must be allowed to opt-out of daily laundering

Exemptions apply

Phase 2:

All Phase 1 rules, plus

Watering is restricted to Mondays, Wednesday and Friday for odd-numbered addressed. Watering restricted to even-numbered addresses on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. Watering restricted to 8 minutes/day with non-conserving nozzles or two 15-minute cycles with conserving nozzles.

Exemptions apply

Phase 3:

All Phase 1 and 2 rules, plus

Watering restricted to only Mondays and Tuesday only, for odd and even addresses respectively

Car washing restricted to commercial facilities

Pool/spa filling restricted

Exemptions apply

Phase 4:

All Phase 1-3 rules, plus

No watering days allowed

NO exemptions apply

Phase 5:

All Phase 1-4 rules, plus

Additional prohibitions to be published in the newspaper

NO exemptions apply

Maybe if we hadn’t wallpapered our entire county with berries and grapes, we’d be better off. In any case, I see very little original thought, commitment, or insight in your note. I think I was looking for that in a Supervisor, but I’ll have to see a report about what I wanted to be sure.


pulp = water do it elctronically so we can burn fossil fuel


Sadly, you are decades too late.


manage demand = fewer people.



manage demand = fewer grapes


hmmm, if we all drank ourseves to death that would mean fewer people. i love Malthusian economics

Randy Sheila

County Flood Control must like this, more work, more staff, more power and a mandate to continue to not really address the problem at this time. Government empire building at its finest.

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