Don’t sacrifice county farmers in water crisis

September 5, 2015
Debbie Peterson

Debbie Peterson


San Luis Obispo County’s billion-dollar agricultural industry – which encompasses everything from strawberries to beef cattle – vies for first place with tourism as the top economic engine of our county. More importantly, it provides our most basic need — second to water – food. It also provides for the livelihood of tens of thousands of county residents.

If we calculate how agriculture indirectly supports tens of thousands more working in associated industries or businesses which benefit from a thriving farming sector, those numbers climb even higher. County leaders and businesses have worked together to pair these two very important industries by creating ag/tourism synergy that further supports our local communities.

California’s ongoing drought places farming and agriculture in a critical situation. Some of our local political leaders would address the drought and water crisis through “quick fixes” that would only serve to devastate San Luis Obispo County’s farm and ranch families. Attempts to impose arbitrary countywide restrictions, fees, and permits on the use of agricultural and residential wells simply serve to scapegoat the agriculture industry for failures statewide and locally to prepare properly for drought
conditions and increasing population.

The fact is that California’s political leaders failed to envision the massive population growth this state has experienced in the last several decades, growth that has greatly increased the demand for water and food production. State and federal water projects were cancelled or left incomplete. Giant third-phase reservoirs like the Ah Pah project on the Klamath River ( which would have provided an additional 15 million acre-feet of water ) were abandoned.

There is no way a state as large as California can accommodate huge increases in population without a renewed commitment to updating and expanding infrastructure, in this case dams, reservoirs, and other water storage facilities. Making farmers pay the price for the failures of our leaders at the state and federal level is unfair and self-defeating.

Locally, we have continued to approve development without providing a sustainable water supply for our own residents and industries. There are decisions we can take at the local level to mitigate the water crisis without sacrificing our agriculture industry.

For example, despite documented annual overdrafts since the 1960’s from the Arroyo Grande/Nipomo Mesa aquifer, and despite the shallow mesa aquifer having been destroyed by leaking refinery pipelines in the dunes, the county continued to approve new development. We now have to live with the consequences of those decisions. It is unfortunate that some county supervisors who are so willing to slap water restrictions on agriculture are the same ones voting to approve developments that would build hundreds of new homes that will increase the already overdrawn water demand.

We must stop approving projects which need more water until we have a sustainable water supply for our current residents and each new development thereafter. Development dollars must go to recharging our aquifers, building new facilities, and expanding existing storage where it is environmentally appropriate, to prevent the real threat of seawater intrusion. This is the right approach to addressing the drought at the county level. Punishing farmers and ranchers and a billion-dollar industry that sustains the basic needs and the livelihood of so many in San Luis Obispo County is the wrong approach.

Debbie Peterson is the former mayor of Grover Beach and a candidate for District 3 Supervisor.


Why are we building a bullet train? Why are we building new developments when we are restricting water? Why are we not building dams? Why are we not advertising and marketing gray water systems for people who could re-use their water?

Why are farmers being vilified for growing food that people need TO EAT?

I grew up in the Central Valley. My Grandparents were LITERALLY the Grapes of Wrath people who lives in the tent cities of Buttonwillow. The stories of near starvation and the dust bowl told by the people themselves were fascinating. Interestingly enough, Americans WILL do migrant work by the way.

Mr. Holly

Everyone should take a look at and take a look at the the farm subsidies, aka agriculture welfare, that the some of the people in San Luis Obispo are receiving. Some of these locally known wealthy people shoild be ashamed of themselves.


California, particularly Southern California, has never lived within its means when it comes to water.

Each water project, going all the way back to the days of William Mulholland’s pipeline that brought water from the Owen’s Valley to L.A., was designed to provide water for development.

Gov. Pat Brown’s state water project brought water to the farmers of the San Joaquin Valley, but only because the aquaduct passed through that area on its way to L.A.

If you want to begin living within our means regarding water stop building houses, shopping malls, new industrial parks, etc. Fewer jobs=fewer people

fewr people=less need for additional water resources.

As far as local agriculture we need to study the past. 50 years ago the North County was primarily dry farms and ranches. In wet years fields of wheat and barley extended as far as the eye could see. The hills were covered with cattle grazing on abudant fields of grass. Water was pumped as a supplement to rainfall, not as a replacement.

In dry years fields lay fallow. The cattle were often replaced by the Basque shepards with their flocks of sheep.

Their was a balance in nature and farmers lived by their wits and sober business practices.

Today grapes abound in the county and the wells run dry in part because of these thirsty crops.

We need to finally learn to live withon our means and that means less development, returning to farming practices that match the various areas of the state, ie. Grow rice in the delta, row crops and cotton in the San Joaquin and wheat and cattle in the coastal counties.

The wineries should be allowed to pump water, but they should pay for water over a certain limit; they can pass the cost onto wine drinkers, who I am sure will be happy to pay $22.00 a bottle for table wines.


In a perfect world every problem can be neatly solved and everybody lives in perfect harmony.

Unfortunately I woke up this morning to a dead lawn and a grumpy neighbor. While I could have a nice green lawn but I doubt there is much that will change the neighbor. There is much in life that we ultimately don’t have the power to change.

Once a pone a time Southern California was not predominately Hispanic. There was a time when politicians did not actively encourage illegal immigration from Mexico. Now we give out drivers licenses and free health care to all comers and Southern California looks more like Tijuana than the city of the angels.

I seriously doubt most politicians have learned anything in recent memory and I suspect the solution you recommend will not see the light of day. As long as the electorate demands a bigger welfare state the greater California’s problems will become. Individual responsibility is no longer a concept that is generally expected of anyone any more.

Ben Daho

Too many people all together, or, Too many people Here? Failed to plan for humans moving to a certain place on the globe? It’s pretty hard to predict travel patterns! Some people are just so damn tired of freezing, burning, and being told what they’re allowed to do or where to live, ESPECIALLY from a politician that could set an example and show us how it’s done and relocate. It hasn’t rained, so there’s nothing to collect. blaming others is sad. When is a politician going to just say “here’s where we’re at, and here’s the solution” infrastructure? Great idea but… How about filling local potholes before you look beyond the Horizon? Think about the life of a pothole. How many opportunities were missed to fill it? How many more will go u filled? Grover Beach ought to find a Sister city in Switzerland. We’re certainly emulating their cheese.


RIDICULOUS. Grover Beach’s street repair bond passed by 45 votes ONLY BECAUSE OF DEBBIE PETERSON who knocked on every door in town.


Shoals has a lot of gaul acting like the big guy in town who’s responsible for getting the streets repaired in town.


When was the last time you saw someone buy land to get into farming? I wager that is ‘never.’ The industrial farming/ranching businesses do not have your best interest in mind, nor are they the homespun good old folks that is generally portrayed. For the most part farms are inherited mega businesses or industrial agricorporations. “It provides us food” What utter nonsense. Go look at where your food comes from in the grocery store I’ll wager 50% of the vegetables you find there come from Mexico, those huge strawberry fields sure don’t rely on the locals for income.


1. Wine is not ‘food’ and the farmers will walk when the water runs out.

2. Population growth can be controlled be you and I. Yet people say I want a family, and when adoption is mentioned, so is ‘my baby’.

3. Policy makers who care about their locale no longer exist. It’s all about the dollars.

4. We all we be screwed when the water runs out. It isn’t fair, I know, but neither is life.


Agriculture is an industry and I am sure it does provide jobs. However, no one wants Agricultural stuff. They want new tech companies. “Keep us poor” would be a good slogan for the anti-growth crowd.

She’s right about water, but who cares. And even if you care you ain’t gonna do anything about it. The whole planet is off coarse, and yet Miami beach is still building waterfront condos. Trying to save this little slice of nowhere land’s water is the least of our worries.


No one wants agriculture?

What do you eat?

I’ve seen Strawberries from Santa Maria in Georgia and Europe.

California feeds the world. To say no one wants agriculture is baloney.


Ok, no one goes to college thinking how great the job on the farm is. I realize farm culture is strong here. But all over the country rural America is pretty much a disaster. We are a metropolitan world now, and you can see the effects here as it has to shift to tourism.

I see no one likes my comment. I’ll repeat; no one(of any consequence) is going to put one iota of care into SLO’s waters crisis. There are cities in this state and others that won’t even be around and we are selling RE on the ocean today. Eat and drink for tomorrow you die.


Try telling that to the people getting a degree in agriculture at Cal Poly.


And UC Davis


What an odd town here. You guys are actually so off your rocker you’d say a farming degree is a good job. I guess around here it is.

For the overwhelming, vast, majority, it is not. And like I say, rural towns in every state are not only stagnant, but actually seeing population declines.

I like the “country” too, but lets not live in fantasyville. There’s enough of that here already.


Seems like the fight that’s brewing in the Supervisors chambers is

Debbie and the farmers


Adam and the developers


Is this more water advice from G. Edward Griffin? Did Bush do 9/11? Is HIV real?