Plan B for Paso Robles water shortage

May 13, 2014
Walter Heer

Walter Heer


The water problem in Northern San Luis Obispo County is a basic problem that happens in other locations of the country, more water is being pumped from the aquifer than is being replenished.

We are suffering from 70 years of pumping surface water out of the water shed, with none of that being replaced. At the same time pumping from the aquifer has used the reserve that took hundreds of years to build up.

Monterey County has a 60 year history of superior water management, probably as a result of the Salinas River Dam. Meanwhile, in San Luis Obispo Country has a history of mismanagement and fighting over water. It almost, and should have, resulted in the county being split into two counties.

A desirable solution, but far from the only one needed, would be forming a water district to bring in other sources of water. Interesting enough, the main opposition (for whatever reason) to forming a water district seems to be coming from people outside the district.

My fear is that this outside opposition is going to prevent the people who are willing to put up their money for a solution, from being able to go ahead. As a result, I am proposing that San Luis Obispo County implement the following program:

The San Luis Obispo Board of Supervisors vote to accept the state water that we contracted for in the 1060’s at the Polonio Pass debarking point. Build a two mile concrete water pipe along the existing right away for that purpose on the Vogel & Alley Ranchers. The water to be discharged along the Davis Road drainage for one half mile to Cholame Creek which would take it to the main recharge for the Paso Robles aquifer, the Estrella River.

Release of any water allocated by the state for that year should begin on April 1st, be at a rate high enough to create a live stream to Airport Road, but not beyond, and continue at that rate until the allocation is used up.

This water should then be made available for purchase, at cost, of portions of the counties state water contract, to communities affected by the water shortage: Shandon, River Grove/Whitley Gardens, Squirrel Hollow, Branch Road, Jardine Road, Hog Canyon/ Pleasant Valley School, Paso Robles, and San Miguel.

The available water on the state contract should be allocated for purchase by the communities and they be given a seven to 15 year time period to make the purchase. If they do not make the purchase in the allotted time, their water would then be made available to the other communities to purchase.

Stipulations to the purchase of this water: Only 70 percent of the water allocation they purchase may be pumped from the Estrella River Bed. If the state reduced its delivery, their pumping from the river bed should be reduced by the same percentage. That they have an on line well pumping capacity equal to the amount withdrawn from bed, that sits completely idle when the state makes full delivery, and if the delivery is reduced, these wells may only pump the amount of actual reduction in the water they would receive from this purchase.

Pumping from the Estrella River Bed can commence when the live stream reaches 1/8 mile from the pumping point. The well in the river bed to be no more than 100 ft. deep, and pumping is discontinued when their allocation is used, but no later than March 1st of the following year.

Each Community would secure a pumping point convenient for their operations. For Paso Robles it would be at Airport Road and they would pump to their water infrastructure at the airport area. If San Miguel were opt to purchase this water, they could begin pumping from the River Road and Estrella River pumping point when the live stream reaches Airport Road (no restriction on their well depth), and the flow across Airport Road be allowed to equal 100 percent of San Miguel’s allocation of water, although they would only be allowed to pump 70 percent of that from the River bed.

By only pumping 70 pecent of the state deliveries at times the state make full deliveries, and banking a reserve in the aquifer, allows the stand by wells to recover this banked water when the deliveries are reduced, there by balancing the water supply available on any given year.

Walter Heer’s family irrigated and dry farmed in the Estrella area of over 100 years


It is not that it has been permanently “shut down” — it has been over 5 times OVERCOMMITED. That means that there is no water — allowing this fake water source into our basin would be an absolute MISTAKE. The importers would “own” the water and our water rights would therefore be displaced!

Here is the proof:


Everybody better be prepared for the worst scenario. California has gone through 30 years periods of extreme drought and extreme rainfall. Study the growth rings on a 1000 year old tree. Read about the floods of 1862 that drenched the entire west coast non-stop for over four weeks with the San Joaquin and Sacramento Valleys becoming a 300 mile long, 20 mile wide inland sea. I’m thinking we’re tapping 1862 water that may not be back for a while. Even if 1862 were to happen again the water would efficiently conveyed to the ocean so as not be a nuisance. Efforts to improve infiltration of water from impervious surfaces is vehemently opposed by those committed to commerce based on the Ponzi scheme of continued growth with no exit strategy. How many people should Paso, A-town, Margarita, SLO, or Nipomo as well as rural SLO County have? “As many as possible for, as long as possible”. Import water, jack up rates, restrict use and degrade our quality of life? “All of the above”. Party on Garth. And keep in mind that one of your North County supervisors maintained until quite recently that there was no problem not solved by “a couple of good years” of rainfall. Now that it is clear that that is not the case I am told it has something to do with Agenda 21 and liberals pushing stack-and-pack and mandatory bicycles. One thing remains certain, the solutions to our water problems will be very beneficial to the few and very costly to the many


The best solution is Ground Water Recharging. You take the water that flows during the rainy season and pump it underground. It’s much cheaper to store the water underground instead of constructing a reservoir. Orange County supplies about 50% of its water from Ground Water Recharging. They could use this technique in Los Osos and Morro Bay to push the salt water leaching into the aquifer.

Walter Heer

Where would this water be collected, Santa Margrita Lake? If so, I’m for it. Not instead, but along with.

Jorge Estrada

The best solution would be to keep the water HEER and not exporting it over to the coast. I do not understand the offering of more turbulence as a solution. It is rediculous to give away riparian water then buy appropriated water as a replacement. That would be like giving your land to somebody else then buying back an iffy easement to build your home on.

Today the most dependable river is flowing through the Cuesta Grade tunnel, on its way to SLO, Morro Bay and points yet to be determined.


This idea seems dependent upon a reliable source of water to be economically viable. I don’t see the State Water Project as being more than a sporadic source.

Walter Heer

As far as being economically viable, there is all most no cost to take this delivery that we have been paying for since the 60’s. To my knowledge, this is the first time that there has been no delivery for domestic customers, and was caused by the pumps being shut off because of the Delta Smelt.


This is absolutely BRILLIANT :-(.

There is no state water. Maybe this fellow doesn’t know that, but it’s been cut off. So, if you subscribe to state water, this year you pay for it in full but get zilch.

This is the future of the state project — very small percentages of the water contracted for will be delivered in “normal” rainfall years because 1, the state project is over committed, and 2, the water production methodology upon which its optimistic “delivery” promises were based turned out to be based on the wettest period in CA in centuries (tree ring evidence). It is estimated the state will be unable to meet its water commitments in 9 out of 10 years going forward.

Plus, this water by the time it reaches SLOCO is so expensive there’s no way it would be feasible for ag even if it were available. And ag deliveries (like in the Central Valley before prohibitive cost is added by treatment and pumping over a mountain range to us) are lowest priority — cities get water first, if there is any to be had.

It’s amazing the things people will come up with instead of doing what’s right — stop using so darned much water for stuff like grapes that are inessential.

Walter Heer

I haven’t hear that the State Water Project had been permently shut down. In fact I was under the impression that the Governor was working on a plan to inhance the flow to the South.

As far as our San Luis Obispo County with the State Water Project, we pay for the water every year ether way, if the State can’t deliver, or we continue to refuse to take delivery. Check your tax bill.

The aqueduct from Corcoran to the Kecks & Twesselman Road area has already been built, from there there is already in existance three pumping stations and the pipe line to deliver the water to our County. We have already paided for this delivery system. It just has’t been used to deliver water to our County.