Cuesta College losing 35,000 gallons of water daily

June 9, 2015

Cuesta poolBy KAREN VELIE

Amid a four-year drought, Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo has nearly doubled its water usage primarily because of a leaking pool. And college officials plan to keep the pool open while putting off any substantial repairs for at least six months.

Cuesta College Director of Facilities Terry Reese said he has been aware for about six months that the pool has been leaking, though he said the college does not know how much water is being lost through the leak.

However, several pool operators said that it is standard to monitor the amount of water added to a pool in order to keep track of the amount of chemicals and that the college should be able to closely estimate the leakage amount.  Water leaks, if not repaired, usually increases over time.

Nevertheless, several staffers at the campus said that shortly after the leakage was discovered, it was estimated the pool was seeping 25,000 gallons a day.

In mid-2014, Cuesta College stopped watering seven of its lawns in an attempt to conserve water. But, water bills provided by Cuesta College show the campus has almost doubled its water usage.

During the first three months of 2014, Cuesta College’s main campus used 11.04 acre feet of water, while in the first three months of 2015, water usage swelled to 20.94 acre feet, an increase of 35,843 gallons of water a day even though the college has stopped watering most of its lawns. One acre foot equals approximately 326,000 gallons of water.

To put the numbers into perspective, in the city of San Luis Obispo, a family of three uses an average of 5,200 gallons of water a month, San Luis Obispo Utilities manager Ron Munds said. Cuesta College’s increased 2015 water usage equals the water use of 206 families in San Luis Obispo.

cuesta press

Cuesta College president Gil Stork

The Cuesta College Board of Trustees is aware of the leak and plans to use bond money for first temporary repairs and later more permanent repairs, said Patrick Mullen, board president. The board decided to keep the pool open based on a recommendation from college staff because it is used as a classroom and by the elderly while they work to fix the leaks.

“Yes, we are aware that the pool has leaks,” Mullen said. “We are working hard to address that while obviously still keeping the pool available for our students and those in the community who use it. This was one of the infrastructure issues that they needed the bond to deal with.”

Aside from the leak at the pool, the campus had a pipe and a valve that leaked water in early 2014. Both have been repaired.

Reese plans to shut down the pool in December to have the lining repaired. However, it is not know if cracks in the lining are contributing to the water loss. Then, in about three years, the goal is to replace both the 650,000 gallon pool and the 65,000 gallon pool.

Next week, sonar will be used on the deck to search for leaks that are accessible for repairs, Reese said.

According to a handful of commercial pool contractors, the cost of fixing the pool lining should run about $120,000 while new pools should cost about $2 million.

“We would love additional support to help fund some of those projects through our foundation,” Mullen said.

Earlier this year, Gov. Jerry Brown asked that everyone cut their water usage by 25 percent in 2015. Both urban communities and farmers are reducing water use.

Reese said the campus “will meet the Governor’s mandate” to reduce water usage by 25 percent. In the next few months, the college is switching to lower-flow toilets and motion activated sinks.

In addition, Gov. Brown wants daily fines for water wasters raised from $500 a day to $10,000 a day. Enforcement is determined by specific water purveyors. The California Men’s Colony is the provider of Cuesta College’s water supply. As such, the state would determine what types of fines, if any, should be levied for the increased water usage.

Cuesta College is entitled to 140 acre feet of state water per year. But, because of the drought, the state’s initial allocation of state water is 10 percent of what has been allotted.

In 2014, Cuesta College utilized 98.46 acre feet of water and to meet the Governor’s mandate it would have to use less than 75 acre feet in 2015. Cuesta College generally uses about six times more water in July, August and September than it uses in the winter months, according to its water bills. In Aug. 2014, the California Men’s Colony billed Cuesta College for 13.98 acre feet of state water.

“We are doing everything we can do to meet and exceed the goals set by the governor and others for us to reduce water usage and still provide quality educational experience for all of our students,” Mullen said.

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Cuesta has needed new leadership for quite a few years now.

To put this water waste into perspective:

My husband and I, and our animals, use 8 units of water every 2 months, or 5984 gallons (1 unit = 748 gallons; 748*8=5984; 5984/2 months=2992 gal/mo, or 100 gal/day).

The 35,000 gallons Cuesta’s pool wastes daily is 350 times what our household uses daily. In other words, one day’s water waste at Cuesta’s pool could provide water (at the rate our household uses water) to 349 households.

And they aren’t going to close down the pool for fixing until December? Our community cannot afford Cuesta College’s flagrant water use.

Clearly, this flagrant “I-got-mine-who-cares-about-you” attitude cannot continue.

I suggest writing a letter/email to Gov. Brown to ask his assistance in convincing Cuesta to shut down their pool facility until it can be fixed.

His email url is:

The let-them-eat-cake attitude of Cuesta College on this massive, daily water waste is unconscionable.

The County needs to step in and shut down the poll facility until it is proven to be not leaking.

This is too ridiculous how can government agencies get away with this?

25,000 gallons a day from a 65,000 gallon pool? It shouldn’t be too difficult to locate that leak. Using sonar? I’ll tell you what, pay me $10000 and I bet I can find and cut that leak in half with some food coloring and the putty you use to patch boat hulls.