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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Perhaps it’s time for the county to step in and establish a Pool Monitoring Bureau. It’s the bureaucratic thing to do.


If I am not mistaken, this pool was closed, drained and “repaired” not long after it originally opened…

And, interesting to note, the water Cuesta College uses is not local San Luis Obispo water, it comes from Whale Rock Reservoir which comes from another area to the north of Cayucos.


Whale Rock is owned by City of San Luis Obispo (51%), Cal Poly and CMC (49%). CMC has chosen to give a portion of their water to Cuesta. In reality, none of these agencies use Whale Rock physical water, it is held in reserve or for emergencies, physically there water comes from Santa Margarita Lake (there is a waterline at the foot of the grade that is used for State Water over to the coast and drops out at the Eastside of CMC and then over to Cuesta. Northern SLO County is scewed as this water should be for the Salinas River.


San Luis has no water of it’s own, it takes water from other areas in the county and banks or trades it as a commodity.

It snapped up Santa Margarita’s long held right to 200 acre feet of water (SRWCB permit #7253) after the County of SLO (the controlling agency)let it fall by the way side for “lack of dilligence”…

So, if we are in a drought emergency, why is San Luis allowing the continued waste of a precious commodity?


Close the pool? So, what do you do, drain the 650,000 gallons? Where does that water go? It fully sounds like they are working to fix the leak. Once that is done, would you not have to refill the pool? Even if you closed it and did not drain it, once repaired, you would still need to replace all of the lost water to use it once again. Sounds like much ado about nothing as you use the same amount of water refilling what was lost once repaired or use far more if you drain it and refill it after repair.


So for this one time loss of water, some of which could possibly be stored and used to fill later, lets not really fix the problem and continue to waste water and money, lets take 2,3,4,5,6,7,8 times longer to fix the problem because we don’t just drain the pool and fix it right away. Yep, government logic all the way, no problem it’s just taxpayer money and there is always more.


Did anyone say that they should take longer than necessary to fix the problem? I hope that you didn’t take my post that way. Even without the water shortage I would hope that they would manage the resources professionally and fix the problem at the soonest possible time.


I also wonder the cost effectiveness of draining and storing the water, especially if the repairs are done timely. It would be interesting to see the estimates on that.


Ok, Mbbizpro, let’s just look at some numbers, Assuming that the numbers are correct in the article, and that the pool holds 650000 gallons of water, and that you don’t assume that the water in the pool can be stored and re-supply the pool once repaired or saved and used for other purposes, then, once drained, it would only take approximately 18.5 days to “loose” by way of the leak/leaks numbers to fill the entire pool of 650,000 gallons of water based on the reported leakage. I would assume that once the pool is drained (and not necessarily completely emptied) it probably wouldn’t take 18.5 days to repair. Although you do have to take government contract work or employee work time and of course the actual problem, into consideration. Therefore, your comment just doesn’t make sense.


Ok..i know this is going to make the haters mad but lets look at this story for a moment….FIRST, the picture on the article is not even the pool at Cuesta College. Should let you have an idea of how much effort the reporter put into the piece.Second, a 50 meter pool is 650,000 gallons not 65,000 gallons. THIRD, the piece stated the district did not know how much water the pool used (which i doubt by the way that this is true and even stated) how could “several staffers”. Do they have magic information the district does not have, access to some sort of records or?? Nothing was stated as to how they know, over what period this happened or why these “staffers” knew this. Conveniently vague. FOURTH, if you were following the press releases about Cuesta, they started their turf reduction in May, not the first three months as stated in this article .If this is the case why did the writer state the even though Cuesta stopped watering their lawns the water use doubled? The writer of this article is a reporter, this is not an op piece, she should have not made this statement as it is wrong and pourposly supporting bad math. It may have been the only way to make her numbers work. If you consider that she states in summer months Cuesta uses 6 time more water than in the winter and this March was the warmest in the last three years (yes this is a fact), by as much as 6 degrees, Do you think they may have started watering their lawns a little early…. If you just consider this misstatement alone you will see here numbers are wrong, way wrong. It appears she took an increase in the water bills” an increase of 35,843 gallons” and conveniently made this a “loss”. If you take the rate of water use for irrigation (assuming this number is true by this writer which i doubt) the school increases water use by somewhere around 10 acre feet a month in the summer, you can see an increase of two acre foot in the warmest March in the last four years would seem appropriate. The only problem with this fact is that it wipes her whole story out……Six,if Cuesta uses 13.98 acre feet a month in lets say 5 of the hottest summer months (the writers numbers) this is a use of 70 acre feet during this priod. This leaves 70 acre feet of water for Cuesta to use if her numbers are correct. This allow a monthly average available water of 10 acre feet a month for the rest of the months. If you take her stated 98.46 acre foot number for 2014 do the same math this leaves nearly 40 acre feet for the remain months. 40 divided by 7 is 5.7 acre feet per month on a year she stated is her baseline for this article .If you take 5.7 and multiply it by 3 (the first three years of 2015 with this HUGE leak) you get 17.1 acre foot average use. Looks like the math does not work again. For this “leak” to have increased by 25,000 gallons a day Cuesta first three months would have needed to have been nearly 24 acre feet not the 20.94 she stated they used. Add back in the fact that Cuesta may have been still watering the lawns at that period and you can eliminate nearly all of her increased water usage. Seven, she stated Cuesta is not doing anything to reduce water usage at the pool then stated they they are doing”sonar testing” to see if there are any leaks.EIGHT, the water mandate is based on the 2013 year not the 2014 year making the 2015 allowance on whatever that years use was less the 25% not the 2014 year…wrong again,

Look…everyone, including Cuesta College needs to reduce water use everywhere they can. I believe the writer stated that Cuesta College is planning to hit the State mandated use reduction and that their Board member said they are working on reducing the pool water use. It also stated that work continues at the pool and that the lawns have been reduced. I was on campus recently and it is obvious that Cuesta is reducing water use across campus. Lets just say it BROWN there. I remember hearing over and over while they pitched their bond that the pool needed work and it was their number one priority if it passed. They also stated they would likely shut it down if the bond did not pass. Is Cuesta pool leaking, i am sure it is based on the statements from the College both before and after the bond passes. Is it the amount that is stated in this article, there is no way it could be based on the first quarter information I listed. It appears that this writer took a small amount of fact, water usage in the first three months and added it to a whole bunch of misinformation to make a killer headline. Unfortunately the bloggers here bought into the hype and did not bother to look at the article itself. I for one wonder why the writer would include so many mistakes that one could tear her report apart with. To ask Cuesta what they doing is one thing, to write an article so full of wholes is another. Lastly, before all of you dislikers hit the button, try my math (all of it is in her article) and look at the items i picked out in the piece and decided if dislike my reasoning or the fact that i pointed out this article is plain trash. ok….go.


For those wondering why my #2 item refers to a pool volume mistake by the reporter and the article lists the pools at 650,000 gallon and 65,000 gallons, this is due to the article being edited from its first posting. I imagine the person in charge of this just forgot to put the title “edited” on the piece and highlight the edit so everyone could follow. So…now you know.


That pool should be closed by government mandate. People are slashing their water use. Look at Cambria. Wells are going dry. Local cities are fining people for not cutting enough, but Cuesta can waste 25 THOUSAND gallons a day and we are cool with that? Oh, I don’t think so. It is time to make phone calls to those higher up than crooked SLO City…..


The voters passed their bond so money isn’t a problem for Cuesta officials

Rich in MB

When you give the Foxes more Chickens to look after, don’t be surprised when you find some feathers on the ground.


Seriously! Close the pool until it gets fixed. DUH.

JB Bronson

Gil: Saw you on the news tonight supporting oil transport on County roads, and you used Cuesta College letterhead.

A rookie mistake——– if you were a rookie. With you it is a calculated pay back to Phillips Oil for supporting athletic teams at Cuesta.

“So what are they going to do to me? I got caught. So what? We got the bond passed. I owe a few people. At my age, I am ready to walk anyway.”

Good example for the students Gil. This will be your legacy.

Rich in MB

All the hate from the Oil-haters….wow….tells me who I support just by watching who the haters are….what next….go after his Pension and Retirement perks?


I did not vote for the Cuesta Bonds because this JC is the worst managed government level of education. The recent letter by the President (Gil Stork, a nice guy but for sure a very poor manager) and the sports coach, Taj Maj structures, poor class structures, lack of building maintenance (there is not only a water issue, but an electrical, gas, sewer, roofs, landscape, etc.), poor management between teachers, staff, sports. The first thing they need to do is dump their sports program. There will never be enough money for this FREE campus for all these students who can there as their career. People should all have to pay something, and be allowed to go for like 3 years at one teirm and then go to a second tier of payment, etc. I know folks that have 3-4 AA’s and keep going to get grants, student loans, etc. and not have to pay them back. This is campus is a failure overall!


This doesn’t sound that logical to me. Perhaps the Cuesta pool should just be shut down for repairs and send the students to the Cal Poly pool, as they have two. One of which was completely empty during this past week.


Just how long do you think it will be before Cuesta cries ‘poor boy’ and asks for another bond to help pay for their water bills??


First they will try to scare the voters by saying money is short and we will have to cut vital services, classes, anything that will effect students and the voters, (they never say if you don’t give us more money we will have to slash administration salaries, benefits and pensions), if that doesn’t work then they cry for more money. They have their playbook all government entities follow, scare first, cry second, but never ever cut from the top down.