SLO County needs equitable distribution of water

October 28, 2015
Supervisor Debbie Arnold

Supervisor Debbie Arnold

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)

(3) Adjudication

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.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

A County wide adjudication for all properties not in a SGMA approved district, water company, etc. would be my first choice because the DISCUSSION would remain with the land owners. My second choice would be to pinch my nose and accelerate the creation of a county wide SGMA that would be the absolute minimum to satisfy the State’s BS requirement. In my opinion either basic fix will not happen because the Feds are broke, our State is broke and both want all local jurisdictions, Cities and Counties, to fabricate new revenue streams to offset the tax dollars that all Gov has already spent, borrowed against and simply just lost. And to add insult to injury, we are being systematically stripped of our ability to manage our local government by self imposed (Staff Recommended) policies that just creates more of them to be a party to the whatever DISCUSSION. As I date myself by recognizing the phrase, the best man for the job, I would have to say that lately my opinion, for the Board of Supervisors, the answer is a woman. Both Supervisors, Debby Arnold and Lynn Compton, have the huevos to stand up for what is right, as if each of us matter, while the Gents curtsy to the Staff. God Bless America, we need that blessing again.

One of the easiest and cheapest ways to improve the watersheds would be to reinstate beavers. Yes, I said BEAVERS. Apparently we had them in this county until the ’60’s, when they were removed by Fish and Wildlife as “pests”. As it turns out, they are a keystone species in the conservation of water and soil and the lack of them is greatly contributing to desertification. NOAA is currently studying the best way to return them to their native habitats to help rehabilitate our watersheds and the wildlife that was dependent on their presence.

They slow down the course of rain water that we have caused to rush off the land in the fastest possible manner straight to the ocean. Slower courses caused much more water to be absorbed and transfered to the aquifers, create pastures that stay green far longer an greatly help to prevent floods and errosion. Fish have a fighting chance to survive in the creeks, a situation that has deteriorated since beavers were removed. Who knew?

There are some good videos available on the subject including how to reintroduce beavers. This would be an excellent year for such a project, since we are due to get ample rain to get them established. Netflix has a few, one is called “Leave it to Beavers” and another, which may be available on YouTube is called “Dam Beavers” They are entertaining and educational.

Seriously, if you own appropriate land, please consider this. There is a group called Bring Back the Beavers that is working toward reinstatement and I know that they are somewhat active in California. This solution is not “high teck”, like desal, but it is also not a fraction of the cost nor highly toxic, as is desal. Also, unlike desal, it will enhance rather than harm wildlife. Win, win, win.

If we used ground water injection of storm water there wouldn’t be any water shortage. Even in a drought, billions of gallons of water simply pour into the ocean each year. We only need to capture a small percentage of that storm water to have adequate water supplies. It’s cheap and we wouldn’t need to build any reservoirs.

Dude…How would you propose to capture storm water runoff without building reservoirs?

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 being used by many to many other government entities and publicly held companies.

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. This is not acceptable.

Well said Debbie! This is exactly why the BOS, acting as the Flood Control District is the WRONG choice to manage the Paso Basin. The BOS has time and again failed the residents of the Paso Basin and continues to do so. Why did Debbie and Lynn wait until yesterday to ask what the County has been doing for two years?

Debbie, thank you for seeing the light and stating that this job is beyond the County’s ability and pushing for a water district of affected and interested locals. I look forward to seeing you promote your new position.

Does anyone on the outside know what this entails.

As County Staff pointed out several times, it wasn’t 5 acre feet that was saved, it was 5 acre feet of water used for offsets at 1:1. Most likely, according to staff, there was a greater water savings as people didn’t want to try to find an offset for proposed new development or expansion of plantings. Seems like the Urgency Ordinance worked in at least some ways to give the Basin a bit of a time out. It’s just a shame that the vested rights exemptions resulted in so much planting which might have taken place over a longer timeframe anyway.

How much planting is “so much”? Apples with apples. Your comment cannot be validated without figures.