Export power is still on the table

February 7, 2014
Cindy Steinbeck

Cindy Steinbeck


Paso Robles Agricultural Alliance for Groundwater Solutions and Pro Water Equity (PRAAGS/ PWE) has stated that I have participated in a “smear campaign to deceive and confuse residents” with “deception and half-truths.” These accusations are false.

As a citizen of this county and an overlying landowner I should be able to pose questions in public discussion – especially when the issues I pose and the questions I raise relate to the creation of a quasi-governmental agency that will have the power to tax landowners and manage our water basin. Additionally PRAAGS/PWE has an unusual and suspect cooperation with County government which continually over steps legal boundaries regarding water and land use (i.e.: Urgency Ordinance). We as a community must be sure a special water district is what we want and need because once established, it will never go away.

The North County depends on the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin (PRGWB). Our basin, the second largest aquifer in the Western United States, is enormous, containing 31.9 million acre feet of storage capacity. There is a regular flow of beautiful, clean water into the basin from the south and east as well as regular flow of water out of our basin to the north. Our basin water has never been co-mingled with an outside water source. Our water is valuable to everyone in the North County and its value to those outside our area cannot be underestimated. I am concerned the drought as well as a state-wide lack of water has caused fear and panic. The “details” of the proposed district are being lost in the confusion and haste…..but the devil is in the details.

PRAAGS/PWE has stated that they intend to “manage” and “balance” the PRGWB and that they do not intend to “sell local water.” I believe a number of people reading this statement assume that the PWE/PRAAGS district is not seeking “export” powers. This is not true. Some of the “management powers” that PRAAGS/PWE may be able to use if they are successful in setting up their district include “export powers” and “water exchanges with private corporations.” Making a statement in the LAFCO application does not ensure that exports will not happen. As of a week ago the PRAAGS website stated that it intended to make “temporary exchanges of water.” That statement is no longer on the website and they claim they’ve taken it off the table, but there is more to the story.

San Luis Obispo County Flood Control District insists on maintaining certain aspects of control and proposes a suspect relationship with the water district. Even though PRAAGS/PWE has taken “exchanges off the table” County Flood Control can put exchanges into AB3030 and force the district into “managing” AB3030. The legislative platform being discussed and implemented February 11, 2014 states, “The proposed legislation not affect or limit the County or the Flood Control and Water Conservation District’s exercise of authority, currently or in the future, to manage groundwater in the Paso Robles Basin.”

PRAAGS/PWE asserts that the “exchanges” will not result in our native groundwater leaving our basin. This is a semantics game which can be played because of the unregulated nature of the State Water Project (SWP). Unsuspecting landowners in unadjudicated basins (like the PRGWB) are being targeted to become “exchange” centers for outside SWP Contractor interests. I am very concerned for North County as a whole. Slowing down and properly educating overliers about the proposed district as well as open discussion of county government actions is necessary. Taxes and regulation are aspects of forming a quasi-governmental agency that must be carefully considered; exploitation of “exchange” opportunities by the water district or county government with an utterly bankrupt SWP must also be brought into the light so overliers can make informed decisions.

Exchanges are unregulated. Who will these exchanges be with and when will they be made? What exactly is the purpose of these exchanges? Who pays for the cost to make these exchanges happen and who profits? Will these exchanges be made with “wet” water or paper? How will exchanges benefit North County? “Water banking” in its broadest sense includes all contractual “transactions” involving water — exchanges, water transfers, and/or conjunctive use. Everyone needs to have an understanding of all types of water “transactions” prior to deciding whether or not we want a 9 nine member board being able to vote on “water transactions” with our PRGWB water. Furthermore, overlying land owners need to understand the impacts of these “water transactions” on the health of the PRGWB and on their overlying rights.

The intentions of the PRAAGS/PWE proposed district must be transparent; governmental agencies are required by law to be transparent in the public process. All individuals, entities or governmental agencies having a future financial interest in any form of “water transactions” involving the PRGWB must be made known to the public. We must make informed decisions regarding our basin.

On February 11th the Board of Supervisors is voting on very important matters regarding our groundwater basin. Board of Supervisors Agenda

Cindy Steinbeck, a fifth generation landowner, is president of Steinbeck Vineyards & Winery in Paso Robles, is a founding member of the Protect Our Water Rights group (POWR) which filed Quiet Title in November. Adjudication is a basin-wide management tool, that when implemented by the courts, will insure the health of the basin by requiring those who sell water to conserve or find additional water sources if the basin is in overdraft. Adjudication protects property owners! www.protectyourwaterrights.com



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What is an overlying landowner? I know the politicians are over lying a lot.

I should have mentioned that I have one acre in the city of Paso Robles and only use for basic needs.

I am a firm believer on property rights,California law states that I am entitled to the water beneath my land.

San Luis Obispo County has no right to say what I can do or not do with my water,no right to say that I need a meter on my well,no tax on the my water rights.

I pay my property taxes,I pay to maintain my well not San Luis Obispo County or any other

Organization that wants to regulate me.

I believe many property owners are not paying attention to this matter ,until they receive a new tax bill and water bill from their own well.

Wake up people Government is on the way to take over a lot more than they already have!

I am a firm believer that all those land owners are over drafting the basin and many of them are doing it to produce a recreational drug.

Over 40 years ago farming interests from Salinas paid for a study of the water basin that existed between Paso, Shandon and Creston (Paso Robles had not claimed title to it at that time). The purpose of the study was to determine if there was a reliable supply of water to support irrigated farming of row crops, like occurs in the Salinas Valley. The result of the study was that there was not a reliable aquifer for that purpose. 40 years later we are “stunned” that the aquifer cannot support the thousands of homes that draw their water from it and we look to assign blame, for clearly it isn’t we who built our homes on the dry, dusty rolling hills of Paso Robles who are responsible.

There is no single entity responsible for this mess; poor planning on the part of the county and city, rubber stamped by LAFCO, which was as compliant as a lap dog and greed are as responsible as Mother Nature.

Large landowners and vineyards say it isn’t their fault. They point out that vineyards use far less water than typical family homes, which is true. But I would ask the owners of these large estates who made it possible to build all these homes that are now sucking the aquifer dry? Why it was the owners of large tracks of land! It was many of you, who turned away from cattle and dry farming so that you could get rich quick!

Now to try to fix it we feel we must create a new government bureaucracy to manage the aquifer, yet doing so creates more questions than answers. And more litigation, which I will undoubtedly profit from, but as a resident I would like to see some leadership from the government we have instead of the creation of another government entity.

Oh and by the way all the land owners in Monterey County will be filing suit if the SLO Board of Supervisors trys to include them in this fiasco. As some of my clients keep reminding me it was “they” who passed and paid for the bond measures in the late 40’s to pay for the construction of Nacimiento and San Antonio reservoirs. Our county didn’t want any part of it back then, “because everybody knows east of Paso is cattle country!”

How do vineyards use far less water than the typical home. I know a typical home with a family of 4 is assumed to use about 1/3 an acre foot a year.

The rule of thumb in planning regarding water management is 1 acre foot per suburban household and 1/2 acre foot per 1 acre of established vineyards annually. There are variables to be sure and of course being conscious about water conservation can reduce both numbers.

Established grape vines can get by on less water than newly planted vines and anyone planting new vines right now is being irresponsible. That said any homeowner who isn’t shifting their landscaping to drought tolerent plants is going to be equally irresponsible come summertime if they are running rainbirds to keep their lawns alive.

My comments were not intended to villify anyone other than the politicians and bureaucrats who demonstrated a lack of vision and let this problem develop over the last 30 years.

Not exactly! First of all, while a portion of household use goes to landscape and is lost to evapotranspiration, the portion used in the house is returned to the groundwater table. Secondly, your numbers for vineyard irrigation are about half of the actual water used in Paso Robles. Based on weather conditions, frost days, variety, soil type, plant density and management styles, it is more realistic to use 1 to 1-1\2 acre feet per acre. See here:


In the middle: So the large Vineyard owners with hundreds or even over a thousand acres of vines are being compared to housing? Do you see developments with 1000 of houses going in? Or even hundreds???

Stating that vines use half as much as houses might sound good, but you have MANY more large acreages are already planted and how many more in the pipeline…HOW is any of this sustainable?