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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Russ J

Lawn watering is a pittance compared to this kind of use as well as agriculture. Typical government bull crap reaction. Lets all do our part and look like we’re good and noble. The lawns are dead but we doubled our water use. I don’t see any water meters on the wells that suck water for crops. Will we wither and die without strawberries and grapes? F.U. Moon Beam and all you almond farmers.


It has already been proven time and time again that Ag is not the biggest user, it is environmental issues, over 50% Ag is around 32%, not sure why you don’t want to address that, maybe just something against your neighbor farmers.

Tom Agostino

This is mind-boggling. Everyone’s very aware of how bad the drought is, and I think (hope) that most people would make a conscientious effort to conserve water. You see a lot more people are xeriscaping their yards these days. Then you hear about something like this pool thing. It goes without saying that Cuesta needs to shut down that pool until further notice, and (if I had my way) the entire campus for the summer. Then maybe they could take the time to work on what sounds like a very wasteful and broken infrastructure.


{my impression of the “professional educators” who run things}

Meh, all those rules, regulations, sacrifices… those are for “other” people. You know, not “us.” We’re far too educated to be responsible for our inept actions; the ignorant masses are lucky to have us. When do we get to raise taxes and (worse) issue more bonds again?


Why not close it down and fix it now? Those Cuesta jackwagons got that new bond passed last Nov., they are swimming in money. Fix it or fire everyone now


They don’t get all of the money in one lump. The first installment of the money is being used for even more pressing needs.


Of course it is… cheers! (it’s now ok to sip the Kool Aid)


“more pressing needs” we all know that is code for salary and benefit increases…..


35,000 gallons of water a DAY? That’s a 1,050,000 gallons a month! I can’t imagine the fine I would get from my city if I used that much water. Imagine if all the states university pools leaked that much. If they all fixed the leaks asap, then Jerry wouldn’t have had to ask us little bitty people to reduce our water use by 25%! Only the government can require us to do what they do not.

Rich in MB

It’s a bogus number…..AKA….”If you like your Pool, You Can Keep it”


My sources tell me its less than 13,000 gallons. The pool is rented out to community programs. As soon as a leak is detected it is repaired. The leak is not causing the majority of the water loss, it is also lost through evaporation, dumping of small amounts of contaminated water (contamination comes in the form of body oils, sunscreens, etc.) that the filters cannot remove. This is pretty much true for all large pools. Imagine if the pool was shut down without prompting. How many people would complain? There are always at least two sides to every story. Don’t automatically believe everything you read until you get all the facts. Also, remember cuesta is letting their lawns go brown along with other measures such as refusing to wash certain equipment or vehicles. How many of you out there have shiny clean paint???


Reese said the campus “will meet the Governor’s mandate” to reduce water usage by 25 percent.

Sure will be easier to hit that 25% reduction goal once the pool is fixed! That will be like a merchant marking up an item, then “slashing” the price! Woo-hoo! 25% off… of a price we marked up 50%…

Do not doubt they will use the pool-wasting numbers in their proof of participation for the 25% reduction.


close the pool and fix the pool


Then rent it out! Open a fitness center or something. Though I doubt a pool can be a profit center, it sure wouldn’t hurt to have it at least offset some of the costs of ownership. Now with the State-mandated drought, pools should be fewer and farther between. Might be an excellent opportunity to teach real-world economics and logistics of running a business, etc. (They’ll of course need to hire someone to teach this).

Or just keep slamming the morons in SLO who are very easily duped into self-taxation “for the kids.”


The pool IS rented out.


“Aquatic Center Repair. Although the major repair to the San Luis Obispo Campus aquatics facility will take place as scheduled during the winter months of 2015-16, a portion of the repair will take place in June. The deck surrounding the campuses two pools will be scanned for pipe leaks; all affected pipes will be immediately repaired. The repairs are not anticipated to affect aquatics courses.”


Just what does a quality education experience have to do with providing students with a swimming pool?

Further I am a senior and I don’t think I am entitled to have a swimming experience in a pool that is leaking during a severe drought. Close the pool!


You obviously are new to government financing practices. ;-)


Very simple. Use the state website and turn them in


That site is ½-assed. No water agency to report to… I typed “San Luis Obispo” into the map’s search field, and the nearest was Cambria and/or Vandeberg… Guess they do not consider SLO city a water agency.

Oh well, it probably wasn’t meant to actually be used.