Pro-water district opinion full of holes

October 22, 2014
Cindy Steinbeck

Cindy Steinbeck


If you read Ms. Gage’s recent pro AB2453 water district editorial you may have been as bemused as I was.

In the opinion piece Ms. Gage argues that adjudication is not an appropriate basin management tool. Ms. Gage, recent legislation excludes adjudicated basins from state management and adjudication has been successfully used state wide for many years in multiple basins. According to Gage an AB2453, an untested, risky water management district, crafted in back room secrecy with broad powers to tax and regulate, with no accountability, is appropriate.

Adjudication is not a mysterious legal process pitting neighbor against neighbor or landowner against municipalities. Adjudication occurs when California groundwater users ask the courts to settle groundwater rights consistent with maintaining the long-term sustainability of the basin.

Yes, Ms. Gage, adjudication will entail the use of expert scientific studies to determine the exact boundaries and safe yield of the basin.

The court has an obligation to follow the law. California Constitution Article 10 section 2 protects the basin while at the same time requires the maximum possible use. The long term health of the basin is the key objective. Simply put, property owners can withdraw groundwater for reasonable use as long as they do not damage the basin or harm their neighbors.

We need to remember that the water issues the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin is facing is nothing new to California. After all “whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting” is a well-known mantra to even the first residents of the state. In response to these kinds of water problems, the California Constitution was written well over a century ago and case law has evolved over the past 100 years to deal with and settle these issues in a legal and equitable fashion. The law is clear, and legal experts, including Eric Garner legal counsel for City of Paso Robles, agree that groundwater basin management by adjudication is the highest form of basin management.

Ah, but therein lies the rub, what PRAAGS/PWE (Paso Robles Ag Alliance for Groundwater Solutions/ProWaterEquity), county and municipal pumpers want is not permissible under the current law. Ms. Gage please be honest about the real reason you are not a proponent of adjudication. The truth is that adjudication of the PRGWB (Paso Robles Groundwater Basin) will likely result in the inability for private investors to make money off commercial exploitation of the groundwater. Do any of the PRAAGS/PWE board members represent private investors?

Ms. Gage correctly points out that even a number of adjudicated basins are on the watch list. Perhaps it has escaped Ms. Gage’s notice, but we are in an unprecedented drought. No basin is exempt from nature. Where I disagree with Ms. Gage is the answer to the question: when we finally emerge from this drought crisis, will our water rights be intact? Ms. Gage and her small coterie apparently don’t care; POWR (Protect Our Water Rights) members are only asking that the law be followed and our rights be upheld in management of the basin.

Finally, I was very surprised to see Ms. Gage in favor of “developing sources of supplemental water.”

Supplemental water from the state water project is the top source suggested. There is no supplemental water in the state. State water project water is five times over-allocated and over-sold. Entering the state water game will hurt landowners, city residents and cities alike. The entities who will benefit by bringing nonexistent “state water” into the PRGWB will be the water brokers who will take “it” out and sell our precious resource elsewhere. Once again Ms. Gage you are showing your hand. Paso Robles voted to stay off state water years ago and I affirm their choice.

Cindy Steinbeck is a fifth generation farmer in Paso Robles. She is a founding member of Protect Our Water Rights, a large group of landowners who have filed a quiet title action which has triggered adjudication. They believe that along with the right to use water comes the responsibility to protect our basin. Adjudication is the proper tool.

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As to wells in South County that are dry pls. see for a list of problem and dry wells. I too live not far from Lynn Compton and can attest to at least 12 dry wells in our area. Her attitude is my well has water and let them eat cake!

I can add 7 dry wells to that list.

For such a list to be helpful it must contain location, depth, and age of well. One time our well went dry, not from drought but because the casing failed from age.

In the first 3 quarters of this year, the building dept. issued 250 permits to dig new wells. Last year had like figures. You want all that information from all those locations?. Give me a break.

People are hesitant to give out that information as it is proprietary and could be detrimental to property values. Plus, giving out personal information could be dangerous–there are unreasoning “nuts” out there.

Locations? How about numbers of how many of these “new” wells are for new buildings and how many are for replacement due to failed wells and of those failed wells the age of those wells.

Ms. Steinbeck,

Of course Eric Garner, legal counsel for Paso Robles agrees. Paso has everything to gain and nothing to lose. Rural residents pay for the district, yet Paso, A-town, Templeton CSD and even SLO-Town businesses and residents benefit. Garner is not a water rights attorney, but is general counsel for a small agency and he is advocating for the City of Paso Robles interest in the basin and that interest is more water which will enable more growth. He is not a specialist, but a general practitioner.

You are correct, that adjudication is a method to manage the district, however, you position is seriously flawed. Flawed in the mere fact that your position suggest that “the court would follow the strict interpretation of the law.” This is far from the truth, the court’s interpretation of the law, takes into account far more than what the law states. A culmination of factors goes into the ruling process. You also indicate that the “California Constitution Article 10 section 2 protects the basin while at the same time requires the maximum possible use.” This is where there is significant wiggle room for interpretation of what the phrase “maximum possible use” means. That interpretation can mean the reallocation of water to the thirsty masses in SLO-Town, A-Town, Paso Robles and Templeton. Each of these communities has a vested interest to gain additional water resources from the outlying areas without appropriate compensation to the rightful owners. In addition, the phrase long-term sustainability of the water basin can mean so many different things to different interests. Time and political views change the meaning of things, including the interpretation of the law. What was once legal, such as opium houses can become illegal! The converse also applies, the interpretation of the law made alcohol consumption (probation) illegal, then the interpretation of the law changed, alcohol and the zins associated with it are now legal, which is fortunate for your family. Sustainability of the basin may mean in ten years from now that it is reasonable that rural landowners have to re-drill their wells down to, say 500’ to hit water, or even 1000’. All of this is a matter of interpretation that takes in so many variables, the needs of the masses being a major factor, coupled with political need. The key here is that over a 100,000 people living within the urban environment has a larger voice than the roughly 7,000 rural residents. Now who will win that debate? The phrase, the needs of the masses outweigh the needs of the few comes to mind.

The list goes on and on why your point of few is seriously flawed and the water rights issue was fought and lost by rural property interest in Colorado decades ago. Katcho, didn’t spend his time advocating for the long-term sustainability of the basin for the interest of the true farmer and rural resident, he did it for special interest. The drought has shown that surface water rights within this county will not meet the long term needs of the urban communities, thus they need ground water and the biggest pool of that is the Paso Basin. The State identified the Paso Basin as a great water resource during the 50’s and is pushing to store water for urban use underground in basins. California’s water is gold and the needs of the masses outweigh the needs of the few in a rural environment.

We can also debate how the Agri-business interest will be served by the formation of the basin, but you will learn that aspect during the next ten years as your family has to go back to cattle ranching and the vines dry up. You see what is in the best interest of society is the efficient use of water and the small farmer’s practices will not be efficient.

There is NO SILVER BULLET, but the answer is not to simply do more studies or stick your head in a hole (although if you do, can you look for water?) I hope the urban water users in both South County and North County are aware that they alone will pay the cost of saving their groundwater basins. These costs will be paid through importing and reclaiming water, which they use once, then give it to the groundwater basin where it is then pumped at a very low cost by those with “Water Rights”.

The sooner you get comfortable with that, Mr. Urban Water User, the better. Because, in Proposition 1 we will all pay to build dams and assure those with Water Rights, and the State Water Project, have a more secure future. If you’re Lynn Compton or the users of 80% of our water, it makes sense for all of YOU to pay billions to build dams and protect the SWP. The urban water users will pay for the dams, the SWP imported water, use it once, and into the ground it goes!


I have carefully read your response, Ms. Steinbeck, along with Ms. Gauge’s opinion piece and find her facts trump your opinions. Let’s begin with your assertion that “…adjudication has been successfully used state-wide for many years in multiple basins.” The facts are there are just over 500 basins in the State. Recently enacted State laws called Pavley-Dickinson, (which you oddly fail to mention) list 26 basins that are excluded from these laws. That is the sum total of all adjudicated basins in the State! Adjudication therefore is not the norm. Ms. Gauge correctly points out that 70% of these adjudicated basins are pumping more water than is being recharged; SOME FOR OVER 35 YEARS! Yet you want us to believe that using the courts is the normal everyday practical way to solve our water problems. And your “solution” is to have a judge, in a court two counties away, decide how much water everyone gets. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

Another area where you play fast and loose with the facts is when you say; “According to Gage an AB2453 (sic), an untested, risky water management district, crafted in back room secrecy (my emphasis) with broad powers to tax and regulate, with no accountability, is appropriate.” The facts are, over a year ago in full view of the public the proposed district governance was extensively reviewed and discussed by the County’s Blue Ribbon Committee. The County Board of Supervisors had several public meetings on the subject. It was fully vetted in Sacramento by the 3 legislative committees; passed by both houses and signed by the Governor. How is this; “IN BACKROOM SECRECY?” It was endorsed by California Association of Wine grape Growers and the State Farm Bureau among others. In short, everyone who wanted to weigh in was given ample opportunity.

More facts – Pavley-Dickinson grants powers to either the district or the County. Either one can be given the powers to tax and regulate and ARE ACCOUNTABLE to the overliers. The only difference is a district will have people elected by all overliers and the County can decide such things dominated by 3 of the 5 Supervisors who don’t represent us and WE DON’T VOTE FOR! These are plain and simple facts Ms. Steinbeck; not merely conjecture or opinion.

You also make another error in talking about supplemental water when you say; “Supplemental water from the state water project is the top source suggested.” Wrong again Ms. Steinbeck. Unallocated water from the Nacimiento Reservoir and recycled water from the City’s sewage treatment plant are two sources that could easily be tapped to ease the “cone of depression” around the airport. This was listed in the Blue Ribbon Committees project resource list months ago and would offer greater benefit a less cost than State water.

Lastly, it is your opinion (again, not substantiated by facts) that our groundwater troubles are all related to droughts. If we just get rain we can all go back to pumping as much as we all need. The basin model update was just released to the public and it proves AGAIN that we have been pumping more from this basin than is being recharged FOR DECADES! The State, in its Bulletin 118 lists our Basin as number 14 of those 500 plus that is at the highest risk. Facts are stubborn things Ms. Steinbeck.

Therefore, can someone please explain to me how adjudication addresses the issue of balancing the basin? I want to protect my property rights just like everyone else should in the basin. However, what good are my water rights if my neighbors continue to pump without regard to what is going on around them?

“And I called for a drought on the land, and on the mountains, and on the corn, and on the new wine, and on the oil, and on that which the ground brings forth, and on men, and on cattle, and on all the labor of the hands.” (Haggai 1:11)

‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ (Haggai 2:6)

“You can’t trust water: Even a straight stick turns crooked in it.”

― W.C. Fields

Then again– Lynn Compton believes that there is only “anecdotal evidence of a small number of wells going dry”.

And you have the exact number, depths, locations and dates the wells were drilled?, please share.

The following paragraphs are from the linked story below:

The worst may be yet to come for many landowners. Any water well more than 20 to 30 years old will likely need to be re-drilled, said managers from Cal West Rain and Miller Drilling Company.

The current groundwater levels have doubled the depth needed to drill for new wells in the North County. A minimum 700-foot-well is required now, far surpassing the old 300-foot standard, they say.


Has there been a serious drought? Of course.

Are some wells going dry? Yes.

BUT, as Ms. Steinbeck notes–where are the “expert scientific studies to determine the exact boundaries and safe yield of the basin?”

Why ram through legislation on city/county/state levels when such studies haven’t even been recently conducted yet?

pasoparent5, kayaknut and other like thinkers,

Obviously, you need direct confirmation how bad it is. The experts are the water well drillers. They know exactly what is going on, have records going back decades for 1000’s of previous wells they drilled, records what is happening today – no further study needed. Will you please simply call any north county water well driller and get yourself educated. Your ignorance is simply not an excuse to keep blabbing your nonsense because in one phone call you would be educated about the reality and not sound stupid. You act like since people whose wells have gone dry have not personally reported their dry well to you then it doesn’t count.

Anyone that has followed this issue knows there are HUNDREDS of wells that have gone dry in PASO. That’s not a SMALL NUMBER. Lynn Compton doesn’t get it. There are at least a dozen wells with a 2 mile radius of Compton’s House/Development that have gone dry./needed replacement MINE INCLUDED.

Her own community well was down for two days about a week ago to fix issues with cavitation. and dropping the pump.

“Only anecdotal evidence of a SMALL NUMBER OF WELLS GOING DRY” ?????

She really should know this stuff–and she doesn’t.

I get it. You’re a Caren Ray supporter. You continually bash Lynn Compton…BUT you’re still not providing any scientific studies that show real numbers, real data, real information.

do you need a scientific study to show that a well is dry ? Are you denying climate change?

Real Numbers: HUNDREDS of wells dry in Paso.

0– the amount of water in those wells (South County too)

Yes I do not care for Compton–She; keeps saying thngs like we would be better off with Bakersfield’s building dynamic.

I live in South County. My well went down over 100 feet in 5 years.

You live in Paso– do you need scientific studies to confirm that your neighbors are OUT of water. p.s. It is NOT fun.

If there are so many wells going dry in Paso and South County I don’t hear the phone ringing,I have a couple friends that haul water and they say they are not getting any phone calls from the Paso area,by the by how many calls ha sthe city opf Paso gotten since they said they would let water out to those in need. I’m not argueing that Paso ha s a water problem that is a fact but how many wells are down and out,hundreds doesn’t cut it,if that was the case the phones would ring.

Call a well driller. You will find that there is at least a 6-9 month waiting list.

So you don’t have any exact information but just tell people to go out and find it, a common tactic when you can’t support your claim, “What I say it true, all you have to do is prove it for me” Yeah right.

I don’t know the exact number of soldiers that we had in

World War II– but I know we won !

Point proven, thanks.

your conclusion is a non sequitur (and boring)

Your WW II comment shows you are the expert at non sequitur (and boring)

Couldn’t agree more. However, as Cindy Steinbeck points out, the powerbrokers, cronies and outsiders have other ideas.