Paso Robles water bill headed to the governor

August 19, 2014

Jerry BrownA bill seeking establishment of a water management district for the Paso Robles aquifer, AB 2453, easily passed the California Assembly Monday on a 51-4 vote and is on its way to California Gov. Jerry Brown.

The measure, by Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian (R-San Luis Obispo), allows the formation of a water district for the Paso Robles water basin. The district’s eventual formation will likely be decided by the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) following filing of petitions by supporters.

Already approved by the Senate, the bill’s last stop is the governor who has until Sept. 30 to sign the bill into law or veto it.

If the governor signs the bill into law, 10 percent of property owners above the basin have five years to petition the county LAFCo to begin the process of forming the district.



Please enlighten us in how your Joint Powers Authority is going to open the basin up to export and exchanges and how you are creating alternate supply when there is no water to be had. Raiding basins is what JPA’s accomplish.

Wake up people this is a disaster!


JPA’s allow independent agencies to cooperatively work together using the same laws, regulations and data. I don’t know of anyone, big or small who wants to export water out of our basin and we should all demand that this does not happen. There isn’t enough for us at the present and it would be insane to think differently. Yes, alternative supplies at present are meager and in the case of State water, non-existent this year. However, at some point it will rain and aquifers and reservoirs, will fill and streams will run again. We have to be ready and have the foresight to make sure we have our share of Naci and State water…when it is there. That is what these water sources are for and were designed to do. The problem is, no one is speaking on behalf of us in the North County to make sure we are in line. Right now, all the Naci water is going south and Monterey County is looking at it too. The FCD has done nothing to solve this for us in Paso. This is why we need our own agency, responsible only to the overliers to take action.


I think the naci water is going north to recharge the aquifer in Monterey County for the farmers in the Salinas Valley. That was the reason that the dam was built with money from bonds paid for by the people in Monterey County. I agree that the basin and needs to be better managed. My fear however is that it will be managed on the backs of the small property owners and residential customers rather than on the large vineyards, who in my opinion, have created much of the problem. When North County consisted of ranch lands and dry farming, nobody’s wells went dry. fast forward 40 years and introduce the vineyards and now during a severe drought many people’s wells are going dry. While it is true there is more housing and development that has occurred in the North County it is also true that North County is inundated with vineyards and the amount of water required for their operation probably exceeds the capacity of the basin during lean years.


Water districts or the Flood Control District, if no district is formed, will get their funding from those that use the most water. Typically, water agencies charge on a graduated scale depending upon land use, water consumption and size. For example, rough estimates would be in the area of less than $100 annually for owners that have from one to 5 or so acres. Unirrigated range land would be assessed about 50 cents per acre. Irrigated land would be charged about $15 per acre. Simple math says that the large irrigated landowners will bear the vast majority of the cost.

I agree that there are a lot of straws in the ground and we have a lot of vineyards. The legislation that I have talked about that is coming our way from Sacramento will get everyone on the same page.That said, vineyards and wineries have made your and my land far more valuable than acreage currently for sale in Cholame. The industry employs thousands and we don’t want to see that jeopardized.

I agree with a lot of what you say and you sound informed on the issues. I say, run for a seat of the district board and make sure the small landowner is represented. I would vote for you.


I have a different take. With the legislature currently winding its way through Sacramento known as Pavley-Dickinson, our basin will be required by law to become sustainable. To make sure this happens, formidable enforcement tools will be available to local agencies to enforce compliance. The bill currently on the Governor’s desk will allow us to form a water district if we so choose. It will be a choice between a district that has people representing us that must own, live and vote within the boundaries of the basin or the Flood Control District ruled by the Board of Supervisors; three of which don’t live here or represent the North County.

Regardless of which agency runs things, either one will have the same cost structure. I would argue that the FCD’s costs will be higher as they could pass on other costs for County bureaucracy not directly related to the Paso Basin. Municipalities and Community Service Districts will be required by these new laws to come together to work cooperatively under Joint Power Authorities. Most of this effort is already underway in SLO and Monterey Counties, our Cities and CSD’s. If we all can’t decide what to do, the new laws will allow the State to come in and manage the basin for us. This is the worst thing that could happen.

I also see a lot of concerned citizens are starting to understand that forming a district makes a lot more sense. It’s us as land owners deciding for ourselves. We must address how much we pump and we must look for sources of supply as we can’t conserve our way out of this.

I don’t see the Sheriff coming onto anyone’s property to install meters. As far as meters go, how else can we all reduce our use without knowing how much our wells are pumping? That said, the Pavley-Dickinson bills will require them if pumping limits need to be enacted by either a water district or the FCD. Hopefully we all will understand that it is the right thing to do. For the few that refuse, fines and financial penalties (in the new lasws) will be levied on property owners in the form of liens. If not eventually paid, a land owner could be at risk of losing their property, and not one law enforcement official will have ever set one foot on an owners land.

In spite of the vast majority who want to cooperate to protect our groundwater, there will still be those that think the courts are the answer. It is their choice. It will not stop the efforts of many more who want to come together and solve the problem cooperatively.


The boundaries will have to be set by LAFCO and that will surely result in litigation as will the mere formation of the entity itself. Ranchers in Monterey County are pulling together to file suit if they are included in the boundaries of any district and at least two of their county supervisors have expressed support of their attempt to resist inclusion in this fiasco.

The residential owners of rural wells outnumber the large landowners so some scheme will have to be created to get them to even allow their wells to be metered; no one is going to force their way onto private property and the sheriff’s department is not going to get involved in any water war, acting as the enforcer, because Sheriff Parkinson has figured out this thing is going to come to a head about the time he is running for re-election and he isn’t going to alienate the voters if he can help it. My guess is Frank Meacham is about played out as county supervisor and if the rumor he is eyeing Katcho’s assembly seat is true you will see him fade into the background on this matter from here on out.

Another educated guess is that a district with gerrymandered borders will be created around existing water districts, CSD’s and cities. A court order will probably be the mechanism used to force everyone in the district to hook up meters. I say this because the new district will have to run to court to force compliance. A court order would tie the sheriff’s hands and force him to accompany district officials to contested locations to install meters. The base rate to pump your water from your well for free will be the amount a typical family of 5 would be expected to use per month and anything over that would be billed on a tiered rate. A similar system would be developed for agriculture. Essentially the pumping would be managed with most of the financial burden resting on agriculture and other big water users.

Of course I could be totally wrong and everyone in the affected area will join together to welcome this added layer of bureaucracy in their lives. If that happens you can also expect to see peace in the Middle East, racial harmony in America and people in Hell getting pitchers of ice water…


Pretty good analysis Gordo. Nice mixture of common adjudicated basin practices, this legislation, and our own local political color.

My take is it will be a nightmare for the average person to participate in this action to stop vineyard greedy over pumping. Glad I sold the El POMAR area land, but cousins are still stuck nearby there. District pricing may be a better fit for such people, who’s barley farming heritage would give them an extremely low adjudication baseline. I think the little guy such as five or 20 acres, should be given a healthy baseline pumping allocation, at the expense of the greedy large commercial Vineyards. Just my personal populist solution.

Bottom line, greed changed the face of our water basin, and some response was regrettably necessary.

Mitch C

Achadjian is a useless toady!

Jorge Estrada

Will the district in compass everything that is not already in some recognized district?