Do we need the proposed Paso Robles water district?

April 7, 2015
Supervisor Bruce Gibson, a proponent of the water district.

Supervisor Bruce Gibson, a proponent of the water district.


I learned long ago that before you can solve a problem, you must first identify the problem and secondly, the underlying cause of that problem.

What is the problem? The “problem” is dropping water levels in the Paso Robles Water basin.

What is the cause of the problem? The Tribune has stated that the dropping water levels in the basin is the result of the drought and over pumping. We all know that we are into our fourth year of drought but……..we’ve had droughts before and we evidently have recovered from them because the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors (BOS) has never declared an overdraft.

So what is different this time?

In my opinion, our BOS has chosen unrestrained growth over the common good. This growth, primarily vineyards, has resulted in more and deeper wells being drilled which has resulted in the over pumping. The BOS allowed this to occur while having thorough knowledge, not only of water levels dropping in the basin but exactly what areas would be hit the hardest by their actions. With the knowledge they possessed they could have controlled growth while actively seeking solutions to the very problems they were creating.

It appears to me that their actions were deliberate. So then, the “cause” of the “crisis” in the basin is the BOS!

Since the BOS has a dual role as the Flood Control and Water Conservation District (FCWCD), they had the authority, responsibility and knowledge to have taken appropriate action to avert the problems we now face. They could have declared an overdraft, resulting in immediate restrictions on purveyor pumping. But they didn’t. They showed they had the authority to take decisive action when they enacted the emergency ordinance in 2013. This Oordinance faced a legal challenge and survived.

The proposed water district (AB2453) is being touted as providing “local control.” The reality is that the bill provides no more “local control” than currently exists. It clearly states that neither the BOS nor the FCWCD will have their respective authority reduced by way of the creation of the new district. What this tells me is that the BOS will continue with their growth-at-any-cost agenda and the only “local control” the new district will have is to continually increase parcel assessments in their attempts to source additional water to “balance” the basin.

Additionally, the new district would be controlled by the large property owners, primarily vineyards. The reality is that they are operating businesses that require significant amounts of water. Without water, they are out of business. They will do whatever they must to insure they have water for their crops, and, as with the BOS, the residents overlying the basin will be taken for granted.

Who wins and who loses?

The BOS wins because they do not want to manage the basin, even though it is their job. The creation of a new district will enable them to walk away from that which they were elected to do. They have attempted to create the impression that they were caught off guard by the basin “crisis” and are working hard, on our behalf, to stop the bleeding. They will be dumping the problem, they created, on us.

The large property owners, primarily vineyards, win because they will control the “new” district. They will set and collect property assessments. Because they are businesses they can write off their respective assessments, as well as, increase prices to cover those assessments. They will feel no pain.

Residents, both rural and city, lose. Rural residents will probably have their wells metered. They will be assessed fees as dictated by the new water district management but they don’t have the ability to recover these costs as do vineyard owners. City residents will be required to continually reduce their water usage while paying ever increasing water bills…….just as they are experiencing today. This is where the pain will be felt.

So… we need this proposed water district?

We do not!

What we need, and have needed, is for our elected BOS to execute their duties in a professional manner with a focus on representing fairly all who fall within their area of responsibility. It doesn’t matter what political parties are represented. What matters is that they do their job.

Jim Olesnanik is a retired Corporate Group Financial vice president and small business owner. He has lived in Templeton for the past 12 years.

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Author needs to ask the Farm Bureau how it would feel if the Supervisors moved to control which crops would be allowed on which parcels on the basin. Agriculture is No. 1 in SLO County and the Board knows which side of its bread is buttered.

Too much flawed assumptions and reasoning in this opinion piece for anyone to take seriously.


So it’s all right to use the water if you are BIG winery, but not for the small land owners to use water. Guess we should all move away, so the Big corporation can all the water.

This water district is all about making money for a few, simple as that!


I don’t think so.

I think it’s all right to use a big amount of water if you own a big amount of land with water under it.

If you own a little amount of land, it is not unreasonable for you to have a lesser share.


So explain in detail how a district is all about making money. Seriously, I would really like to know.


I’m confused. Most commenters here rail against Gibson and Hill (and the other supervisors depending upon their politics or position on any given topic they don;t agree with) and all the corrupt things they do about our water. Yet those that oppose the water district, will get these same “clowns” (as some of you have called them) to control our water forever. Seems to me if a water district is

formed, at least we all will be in it together without the Supervisors looking for ways to take the Paso basin water to use in other areas of the county. Pick your poison. The clown show or nine people that will own land and live in the district.Big landowners only get 2 seats. How then do the big guys control anything.


Haven’t you ever heard that money talks?


money doesn’t talk it swears!

Bob Dylan


The property owners do not have to live in the district. They are allowed to have their representatives vote and/or become directors. This is something that is required by a state sanctioned water district. Therein lies the problem.


When I read that bill which talks about the district directors, it’s the people that run for the district that must own land and live here. Some must be registered to vote here and live here too. This gives all landowners a vote. But landowners that live on their land can’t vote for the 3 at large directors. Sounds like democracy to me.


As Santa Barbara 4th District Supervisor Peter Adam, a farmer who participated in the Santa Maria Basin adjudication put it, water districts are about politics, privilege and power; adjudication is about a scientist and a judge.


This precisely how to grow a bureaucracy. As such, it will cost more, require more resources than are actually needed, become incredibly inefficient, and will somehow result in some kind of tax in order to sustain itself.


Francesca Bolognini

Mr. Olesnanik has made the best assessment of the situation that I have heard so far. When individuals saved up and purchased a piece of land that had water, they were not looking to make an “unfair grab for property rights”, they were investing what little resources they had, by comparison to the major corporations in the good faith that they had water rights.

For the record, the vintners that use the most water tend to be growing in volume for cheap wine, not the higher quality product. The higher end wines were often dry farmed, although current weather conditions tend to require some limited watering now. In the past, these producers were more of an asset to the community than the more recent agribusiness operations that are intent on profit through volume and sucking down the water table in consequence.

I spoke to a developer of water projects recently who was , I assume, looking to impress me with his expertise by bragging about all the projects his company had done all over the state. He even went as far as to claim some responsibility for the water problems in Paso. When I asked him how he felt about this, and I paraphrase him a bit here, he got all wide eyed innocent andtold me that he believed the statements that there was “unlimited water” in the Paso Basin. At that point it became clear to me that he was either much less the expert than he claimed to be or a corporate prostitute or a combination of the two. For starters, it is Geology 101 THAT THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS UNLIMITED WATER. The first time I questioned the rampant developement in Paso and someone tried that line on me (about 20 years ago) I was enjoying a beverage and did a huge spit take.

The aforementioned developer, in an attempt to portray me as a gullible and niave dupe made several comments during our conversation that alledged that I must be listening to the people who spread fear, do not know what they are talking about or want to stop all developement for some vague reason he could not state. In point of fact, I formed my opinions based on conversations thta I have had with real experts, people with PhDs in Hydrology, Geology, Geophysics, Soils Physics, water systems inspectors, with successful life long careers in these fields. The concept of “unlimited” water exists only in the vernacular of developement and translates as “We have enough money to do whatever we want”.

I believe that the corporations want to control the government that controls everyone and the allocation of resources. I am strongly in favor of ONE PERSON, ONE VOTE. The only exception to this could possibly be someone who does not require water to live. Our Founding Fathers fought a revolution that was as much against the corporate control of the colonies as it was against the Crown, which was the enforcing arm of said financial interests. They all but banned the use of incorporation as a financial instrument, to be used only in the case of an extremely limited form of public works project, intensely regulated and disbanned when the singular projec was accomplished. They knew the dangers of a financial entity with undue influence and risked everything to free us of them. What has since evolved in this country is, to our shame, their worst nightmare come true.


In a nutshell:

A cCorporation is a group of investors pooling their resources (typically money) in pursuit of a goal (typically more money).

An Special Interest is a group if interested parties pooling their resources (typically political clout) in the pursuit of something they don’t have (in this case money).

Who is the bad guy? The ones who own and use (or misuse) THEIR resource, or the ones trying to take the resource?


Let me try that second paragraph again, with fewer typos:

A Special Interest is a group of interested parties pooling their resources (typically political clout) in the pursuit of a goal (in this case someone else’s water).

Mr. Holly

Great article. As I have stated before just follow the money. This is all

about the vineyard owners obtaining control of the water rights. By doing

this they preserve their investments. But while doing this the financial

burden is placed on the private well owners and the municipal water users.

As stated in the article more water restrictions will be placed on these folks

while the rates go up to maintain the salaries and benefits.

Why is it that in Paso Robles they already have high water rates, the water

police and people losing their lawns and landscape while at the same

time they are going to build more hotels, plant more vineyards and approve

additional housing projects? Would it be for the profiters?

I see in the valley where real farmers, those that are growing food products,

are losing their crops due to water shortages. But here in the Paso

Robles area the wine keeps flowing. Are grapes and wine a vital food

source, or is it the money source that counts?

How about head pruning all of the vineyards and the let’s see what

happens to the water levels?


Mr. Olesnanik makes some valid points, but his fundamental flaw is the failure to accept that The Large Parcel Owners Have a Larger Stake in The Basin.

Regardless of the Large Owners ability to pay, regardless of their seemingly frivolous use to make snobby wine, and regardless of the Corps-ain’t-peeps questions; the big parcels (by virtue of being big parcels) have a bigger claim to the water beneath than the smaller parcels do. Until there is consensus on that, there can be no consensus.

Rich in MB

We all know what the Big Water Players in Paso want….they want CONTROL over the little guys.

Power….Water…..Money….and Wine Grapes.


I think the Big Water Players in Paso just want to be left alone to grow their crops. They could care less about controlling the little guys.

I think they feel (justly, in my opinion) that the little guys are making an unfair grab for a property right that is vested with them.


racket, the big players want to control the basin so they can sell water.


If it’s *their* water, they should be allowed to sell it. They could sell it to neighbors who don’t have sufficient water, or they could sell it elsewhere to a higher bidder. Or doesn’t the Capitalist Theory, um, hold water?


racket, are you one of the big players in this mess?

I can’t understand why anyone would want this new water district. It’s going to cost the taxpayers more money. The only people who will get anything out of it will be people like Stewart Resnick.


No, my only interest is fairness.

Lets compare the Hwy 46E neighborhood.

On the north side of the highway, a bunch of people made a bunch of dough dividing and subdividing the Jardine area into 2.5 acre homesites. A ton of dough, and a ton of water use.

On the south side of the highway, Arciero (or whatever it is now) farmed, and did not subdivide. Now, there seems to be a move afoot to take Arciero water to protect the interests of all the Jardineros.

To me, that is grossly unfair. It was Arciero’s water before Jardine got cut up. And it was Arciero’s water while Jardine was being built. Now, Jardine is thirsty, and looking to regulate Arciero’s water.

(This simplified history is for illustrative purposes only.)