SLO County groundwater regulations approved

October 28, 2015
Frank Mecham

Frank Mecham

The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors narrowly approved a package of regulations Tuesday that will restrict groundwater usage in multiple unincorporated areas of the county.

On a 3-2 vote, supervisors Bruce Gibson, Adam Hill and Frank Mecham voted in favor of the groundwater regulations while supervisors Debbie Arnold and Lynn Compton opposed them. Mecham, who held the swing vote, said it was better to do something about groundwater basin management than nothing.

The core component of the rules approved Tuesday is a regulation prohibiting new residential and agricultural development in the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin unless developers or growers conserve an equal amount of water in the area through other efforts. Water conservation possibilities include plumbing retrofits, grass removal and swapping out crops that require that require a lot of water.

An emergency ordinance that imposed a similar ban expired in late August. The new regulation will expire in 2020 when a state mandate on management of the groundwater basin takes effect.

The new regulatory package also includes a rule requiring Nipomo Mesa developers to offset their water usage. As with the Paso Robles basin, Nipomo Mesa developers must conserve an amount of water that is at least as much as they consume.

None of the regulations approved Tuesday apply to cities in SLO County. The board of supervisors only has the authority to impose land use rules on unincorporated areas of the county.

Proponents of the county water conservation program contend it is needed to stabilize the local groundwater basins. Supporters also warned the county had to move quickly to address the problem or face losing local control of its basins.

Arnold argued the regulations unfairly impact farmers and rural land owners. She also said there had been no longterm designation of overdraft, and the only water severity declaration was a political decision made by the county.

Compton said the county spent more than $1 million dollars on the conservation program and only saved five acre feet of water.

Public speakers at Tuesday’s hearing were split for and against the new regulations.



  1. standup says:

    It is pretty clear that most of the negativity towards Frank is unfounded. Do all these vineyards and other pumpers realize that our groundwater is a finite resource? All it is about is mine, mine, mine. Wake up fools or dry up.

    (6) 10 Total Votes - 8 up - 2 down
  2. Myself says:

    This just lets there foot in the door,just wait, with this county wide program the county will now start laying out new rules,meters on all rural wells,permits and then charging us for the water we use, they are going to have to feed the dragon and as usual it’ll be on the taxpayer to feed something we don’t want.

    (6) 14 Total Votes - 10 up - 4 down
  3. Pelican1 says:

    Well, obviously when the going gets tough the wimp factor takes precedence.

    (3) 9 Total Votes - 6 up - 3 down
  4. FrankNBali says:

    I am posting this again and I hope civic leaders get the message!

    I find it absurd that our county doesn’t have a sustainability manager/team who is trained in analysis, program development using and leveraging sustainability metrics publicly available to government, currently being used by many to many other government entities and publicly held companies in our state and nation.

    It’s embarrassing!

    Other communities throughout California have paid sustainability staff with budgets with expertise in both energy, waste and water issues that apply to business, government entities, and agriculture.. Why is SLO so behind?

    I do not trust any civic leader in this county has water use conservation or benchmarking experience, implementation, reporting or pedigree in this area and you need to hire expertise in these important environmental and sustainability issues. It is not acceptable, at this point in the drought and climate change crisis not to show leadership and implement a Climate Action Plan and employ qualified and experienced sustainability leaders and staff to lead the effort.

    Thank you.

    (7) 21 Total Votes - 14 up - 7 down
  5. Jorge Estrada says:

    It is pointless to ridicule the crooks at the Board, remember in their defense this is a public forum and although for what they accomplished there should have been a public hanging, the public’s attendance was not large enough to thwart their pure cronyism, commie-con (lets do something, let’s move forward, I’ve been kicking the cans long enough) salesmanship. For most it is truly a luxury to be able to attend a public meeting that is held during the work day while our County Staff is paid by us to do so, as it is their employment and employment this new ordinance did create. Two new positions for starters and the $600,000.00 spent to have this ordinance brought to the table. The Board members that voted for this ordinance, Gibson, Hill and Mecham admitted not totally understanding what they have voted for while chanting their (let’s do something, let’s move forward, I’m tired of kicking the cans) rhetoric. They have supported new law, legal or not, that will take from what you have paid for and will create new ongoing cost that will not solve the (yes) unknown issues. This NEW County Wide Ordinance is purely regulatory employment and the public costs will grow while your private rights diminish if not challenged.

    (5) 39 Total Votes - 22 up - 17 down
  6. slojustice says:

    Frank, what happened to you. You are now aligned with the other pay to play supervisors.

    (17) 57 Total Votes - 37 up - 20 down
    • Black_Copter_Pilot says:

      What happened is Frank no longer has to worry about re-election, that’s what happened

      (20) 20 Total Votes - 20 up - 0 down
    • MajorityFan says:

      Frank did the right thing instead of voting with the COLAB sponsored Arnold and Compton, two shining examples of incompetence. Good for him!

      (1) 9 Total Votes - 5 up - 4 down
  7. womanwhohasbeenthere says:

    Well good luck trying to add a room or do anything with your property in rural Paso Robles. Now that this water ordinance is in place, you are essentially under the same building restrictions as if your property were in the Coastal Commission’s purview – only worse! So much for ag tourism – adding a restroom on a permanent basis is a no-no. Ditto building a road – that takes water to kekep dust down; r landscaping with anything other than cacti.

    Maybe we should restrict how many children can be born there, everyone knows additional people means additional water usage. I’m so glad bureaucratic agencies can tell us how to live…. I know they have our best interests at heart.

    (8) 48 Total Votes - 28 up - 20 down
  8. Citizen says:

    The reason so little water was saved was because county employees approved exceptions to almost everyone who applied. Or perhaps the exception rules were so generous or vague that county employees could not reasonably turn down exceptions. Either way, this destroyed the water savings.

    Hopefully, the exception rules, will be reexamined and tightened.

    (8) 20 Total Votes - 14 up - 6 down
  9. pasoparent5 says:

    Frank, I heartily supported you as a Paso councilman…mayor…then supervisor.

    BUT it’s over, Frank. Ever since you went to SLO, your ego’s grown and your power quest is unbelievable.

    At least you have your pals Adam and Bruce to hang around with because many of your former Paso supporters are so, so disappointed with the decisions you’re making as supervisor.

    (7) 59 Total Votes - 33 up - 26 down
    • pasoparent5 says:

      Oh, and BTW Frank, I look forward to hearing your explanation in a few years (if not sooner) when SLO county water DOES get exported and water DOES get sold despite your fake pleas of “I don’t know much about plans to sell our water.” Yeah…right.

      (12) 52 Total Votes - 32 up - 20 down
    • MajorityFan says:

      You, of course, are speaking for the majority of Paso Roble’s citizens.

      (-2) 2 Total Votes - 0 up - 2 down

Leave a Comment