Report: Water district plan endangers basin’s future

February 9, 2016

Vineyard Ancient Peaks


A new, wide-reaching state law ostensibly intended to “sustain” water basins throughout California actually opens the door to privatization of the Paso Robles aquifer, according to a recently released report.

Writing for the Golden Gate University Environmental Law Journal, authors Adam Keats and Chelsea Tu conclude that the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) — widely hailed upon its passage in 2014 — may create more problems in the North County than it ever solves. The authors specifically cited the Paso basin, which they contend “is threatened by the development of water banking operations which function to replace groundwater resources with privatized, banked water that would undermine the public interest.”

According to the authors, this is a threat that the new state law “may be promoting.”

“Equitable regulation of groundwater basins may be challenged by current and future efforts to privatize these groundwater resources,” Keats and Tu reported.

Backers of a plan to form a special “hybrid” water district to manage the basin’s supplies have denied that water banking is part of their plans. But considerable evidence suggests otherwise.

South County supervisors Adam Hill and Bruce Gibson are the leading proponents of the district.

An election to authorize a tax to support operations of a new North County water district, and to elect board members, is being conducted by mail and will be completed in March.

Supervisor Bruce Gibson

Supervisor Bruce Gibson

Water banking is the practice of importing water into an existing aquifer for extraction at a later time. The most apparent example of water banking is in Kern County, where a handful of powerful agriculturalists have essentially commandeered the Central Valley’s entire underground water supply. So much water is being pumped from the Kern basin for nut production that the land above has subsided — in some cases, by many feet.

Keats and Tu contend that new “locally-controlled” agencies — such as the one proposed for the North County — will be “controlled or dominated by their private industry members (and are) not likely to succeed in achieving an equitable and sustainable groundwater management system.”

Language in the new law “appears to endorse water banking and exchanges,” the study notes.

The law “provides for blanket, discretionary authority of local agencies to perform any acts necessary or proper to enable the agency to purchase, transfer, deliver, or exchange water or water rights of any type of any person.”

A key element of the law’s alleged weakness, the authors write, is “the fact that banked water remains governed by surface water rights and is not subject to traditional groundwater laws regarding percolated groundwater.” This, then, sets up a potential conflict between existing and future users.

“It is not difficult to envision a privately-controlled agency systematically drawing down percolated groundwater to create storage space in the basin, and then replenishing the basin with imported water, with little consideration of the ability of overlying users to access the basin or the long-term health of the surrounding ecosystem,” the authors write.

The report also belies the contention that the basin is in “overdraft.”

“While water use pressure has increased over the past two decades,” the authors write, “it is unlikely that the entire basin is currently over-drafted.”

The report cites some of the major players in the plan to promote a water district’s formation as some of the state’s largest water privateers. Brodiaea Inc., a company solely owned by Harvard University’s Management Company, is, according to its website, “investing in natural resources by purchasing millions of dollars worth of vineyard land in California. The company owned more than 14,600 acres in the Shandon-Carrizo area of San Luis Obispo County alone.”

Also vested in the district plan is Roll Vineyards LLC, owned by billionaires Stewart and Lynda Resnick and one of the country’s largest privately owned agribusiness companies.

The pending opportunity to privatize Paso Robles Basin water “has also attracted the attention of Scott Slater, a well- known water rights attorney and president of Cadiz, Inc., which is now developing plans to store water in the aquifer underneath the Mojave Desert,” the Keats-Tu report notes.

The Paso basin “is poised to convert to privately-controlled, for-profit water banks,” the report asserts.

“While local management of groundwater resources may appear ideal, diverse interests at the local level will likely be undermined by those of powerful agribusiness owners, investors, and water brokers who view water not as a human right or environmental necessity, but a fungible commodity that can be captured and sold in a market or exchange,” the report concludes.

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I also heard the water district will cause cancer and STDs. Why don’t you people get up from your computers in the basement, take off your tin foil hats, get dressed and come to the public meetings where you can meet and talk with the people who will represent you on the district board. Corporate control my behind. It.Can’t. Happen. Resnick does not live here. He and Linda can only vote for 2 of the nine board members.Hearst and Peck can cancel out his votes 10 fold but you never mention them.

Okay you aluminum chapeau wearers, bring it on.


Such logic, such eloquence, such empathy and such ability to persuade and influence people, “Okay you aluminum chapeau wearers, bring it on?”

This is a wonderful example of a stump speech from a pro-district supporter and a preview of the kind of management the new district will have if passed.

Okay you aluminum chapeau wearers, Vote NO and run for your lives, PRAAGS is coming!

Jorge Estrada

Don’t be fooled by sounds good…Just protect what you own and be vigilant about this because you are paying the salaries of people that want you to vote for a new tax, a tax which will fund them to further exploit your rights. Side with your neighbors and together protect each other from bureaucratic trespass. It’s ok to just vote NO and keep voting NO until their waste of your time validates their leadership.


Dig hole in sand, insert head, cover. You will be taxed and your well will be regulated by the State, County or district. Do nothing and here comes the boogeyman. No one will come on your property. They will find their way on your tax bill and put a fee on it. Don’t pay it. Here comes the lien as you are sitting by your gate,,,waiting..

Jorge Estrada

If you choose to have your last cigarette and wear a blindfold, please stand close to the wall. I choose to stand far away from the wall and wear ear plugs.

Jim Anderson

Fire Bruce Gibson. Fire Adam Hill. They sold us out, all of us, a long time ago.


Don’t forget Frank. He was an elected leader in Paso Robles for many years at a time when the City embarked on rapid growth relying on massive groundwater pumping to fuel that growth. The city was late to utilize Nacimiento water and still does not have the facilities to use it full time. The largest cone of depression of groundwater is in the area of the Paso Robles wells. All of the elected Paso Robles officials during the last twenty years failed not only the city but all of North County by promoting growth without the proper water infrastructure. As the third pro-district vote Frank is now leaving the BofS just ahead of the electorate firing him.


And don’t forget Katcho who carried this awful law through the legislature. Who’s side is he actually on? Wonder if we followed the money if his “good works” are paying off in campaign contributions from the Resnicks and others?


Fire Gibson and Hill, hah! They are elected officials but you knew that. They can only be “fired” by their constituents who seem to love them…by overwhelming margins; much to my chagrin and yours. But many who post here want them to be in charge of our wells.Fascinating.



Your chagrin?… PRAAGS has been lobbying Hill, Gibson, Frank & Katcho for years trying to get your plan off the ground. Who pushed Katcho for the amendments in Sacramento? PRAAGS. Your eyes must be brown because you are full of it.


The people of North County had better wake-up, this so called water district is about selling our water. Why else has so much money from outside of this area been invested in getting this district passed. The same people who have made such a mess over in Kern county are here pushing this down our throats


The city of Paso Robles is the biggest user of the ground water. The city has options they could invest into recycle the waste water to be reused, other places are doing that. They could also use more of Lake Nacimento water. How about not building more hotels?

The bottom line is VOTE NO!


The government can’t provide us with good tasting drinking water so let’s keep the good wine coming!


The good wine comes from the West Side.


Not all of it I agree on the Rhones though.


This report backs up what I have been concerned about all along. Follow the money promoting the district and you will find the motive and the backers. The water district has never been about helping the locals- it’s been a ploy to play water games where we the people over the basin pay for the right to play (new taxes) — and then we lose our most valuable resource, water. Voting No will help protect our basin!


What’s good for Bruce Gibson must be good for…Bruce Gibson.

This is telling, why yet again Bruce reaches beyond his district boundaries to cause turmoil. Could it be the Resnicks are channeling cash his way, as well as to his Sancho Panza, Adam Hill, for doing some much appreciated dirty work? Oh yeah it could.


Consider the authors are from “Center for Biodiversity” and “Center for Food Safety”, both of which are in socialist groups in favor of Agenda 21, organic, vegetarian, etc. Now ask yourself: Do you think they are for rural residents and individual freedoms? 

CCN states that SGMA (which was passed by Gov Brown and the Dems in Sacramento) could be problematic for the North County.  NO Sh¡T!! Why do you think the proponents of the district want to make sure there is local control instead of the politicians.  

Get over the conspiracy BS and face the facts that are out there. Do you trust your water to your fellow residents or Gibson/Hill or even Moonbeam?  ‎


So does this mean PRAAGS and Yes on A and B are changing their official slogan to “In Resnick we trust?”


“Locally controlled” means “corporation controlled”. I’m not sure that’s better than the alternative, in fact, I’m pretty sure it is not.

The bottom line for rural citizens is that no matter how much we conserve, we are going to see wells continue to go dry, so be prepared to drop $26K or so for the 600′ well, plus the on-going higher costs of pumping from a greater depth. Oh, and maybe some extra taxes for metering, if the big boys get their way.

You can thank the city of Paso Robles, for approving continued growth in the face of reality, and you can thank the SLO board for ignoring the issue/pretending it wasn’t there for the last 15 years, and finally you can thank the big vineyards who will continue to abuse the aquifer until it is no longer profitable to do so.


Yep, most of us probably agree with you.

How about a suggestion on an solution or at least a path forward?


Too late. The Harvard Endowment and the Resnick’s didn’t get rich by accident. So many thought it was just water, flush the toilet, do dishes… You wouldn’t let your neighbors siphon the gas out of your car, but you’re allowing this?


There are hundreds of corporations and LLCs that own land in the Paso Basin. I think we should start to make a list. We can all vote which ones we think are “good” and which are “evil.” What’s the criteria; how long have they been here? How many acres? Do they have the State pipeline running across their land? Grapes? Can’t have that. Alfalfa? Too much water. Carrots? Good…but organic no! Too San Francisco. Let’s follow the Spanish Inquisition model. Very efficient…not democratic but efficient.


jacksprat, you have that list down pretty well… “Let’s follow the Spanish Inquisition model. Very efficient…not democratic but efficient” Are you by any chance leaking your new district’s candidates priorities and their proposed GSP management structure?

It all kind of makes sense now…




…a decade from now. What happens until then? Adjudicators are hoping for chaos so they can keep pumping like nothing is wrong. Thanks for that neighbor. We love judges that agree with us. Wonder what you will think if the one in Santa Clara doesn’t give you your quiet title? Never lost you say? Think again.



Is your pension plan invested in the Harvard Endowment and that is why you want this fleecing of the people to happen? That is the only logical argument that I can come up with as to why you have a YES ON WATER DISTRICT tattoo.