SLO County needs equitable distribution of water
October 28, 2015
Opinion by SLO County Supervisor Debbie Arnold
Editors Note: The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 Tuesday to approve a County Water Conservation Program with supervisors Debbie Arnold and Lynn Compton voting no.
On Tuesday, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors took under consideration a proposed Countywide Water Conservation Program (CWWCP). The CWWCP was being offered as a tool to manage water basins countywide.
I am concerned that using this county planning document is not the most efficient way to manage the basins, in part because it does not include all water users and primarily restricts the rural land owners.
Currently, we have three tools available to manage our water basins:
(1) County Land Use (CWWCP)
(2) Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA)
The CWWCP proposes regulatory solutions, creating an inequitable situation amongst property owners by mandating any new development pay offset fees. CWWCP only applies to some water users in the basin. Both SGMA and adjudication are more inclusive tools to manage the basins because they take into consideration all the water users, creating a more fair distribution of water.
It should be noted that after a two year moratorium via the Urgency Ordinance for the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin, it has been reported that only 5 acre-feet of water was saved through the offset program. Those who can afford the cost of this added regulation have the ability to improve their property, while those who cannot afford the added costs find themselves restricted.
My concerns with the CWWCP included the lack of any economic analysis being done, the added cost of regulation to small agricultural producers and rural landowners, and the use of deed restrictions on private property.
Instead of creating more regulation for property owners and asking county staff to spend more time and money on enforcement of the CWWCP, it was my hope that we would use our resources to work on our state mandated groundwater management plan.
I believe a SGMA compliant groundwater plan is the best means to create a fair distribution of water for all users while ensuring that our basin is balanced.