Cambria’s unethical waste of water
August 30, 2015
OPINION BY JULIE TACKER
The Cambrian recently reported that the Cambria Community Services District has eased their rule on outdoor irrigation. Though the district claims the that relaxing the ban will help with fire suppression, it earlier stated it was for financial gain.
The day before the board took action to revise their drought restrictions, they had a special meeting where district Manager Jerry Gruber provided nearly a dozen stopgap measures to reduce costs and increase revenue over the next six months of anticipated cash shortfalls.
For example, Gruber suggested deferring payments to creditors, a hiring freeze, postponing or deferring projects, and “allow outside irrigation at least one day per week to help mitigate impact of drought on trees and to generate additional revenue for the District.” In the staff report, Gruber says, “staff anticipates no increase in the amount of water being used due to the fact that water allocations will remain the same.”
Cambria is a champion community at saving water. Faced with years of water supply uncertainty and a hotly contended building moratorium, Cambrians have done a remarkable job of saving water. They have done so much to the chagrin of some residents, even board members, who have gone to great lengths to keep their ornamental gardens alive with non-potable water trucked to their properties.
Cambria has built an desalination emergency water system that has exceeded its original budget by nearly 50 percent. This is over what ratepayers approved and their 218 vote allowed. The district has also burned through general fund internal loans that district board approved.
The desalination plant was built with an emergency permit, if Cambria is no longer in an emergency, only then would it make sense to lift drought restrictions. This measure is simply to raise revenue for the districts ailing coffers in two ways.
First, simply to sell more water. And second, as the aquifer is depleted to the permitted level, the desalination plant can be turned on and much higher rates will be charged to pay for the equipment. The community approved higher water rates whenever the desalination plant is operating.
The staff report goes on to say, “Modifying of the outdoor irrigation watering schedule for the community should not necessarily be directly tied to the restarting of the emergency water system; however, staff will make every effort to restart the emergency water system based on the criteria that was outlined within the General Manager’s report in July of 2015 with a certain amount of flexibility relating to well levels and the gradient.”
This unethical use of water is disguised as a fire protection measure. While in fact, it’s a thinly veiled attempt to pay for the emergency water system boondoggle.
Julie Tacker is a 45-year resident of Los Osos and a San Luis Obispo countywide government watchdog.