Responsible Interim Management of the Paso Basin

On Tuesday, February 24th, the Board of Supervisors will re-visit the Ag Offset Ordinance.  Various concerns have been expressed about the Urgency Ordinance; however, this “timeout” is still needed. Work is underway to establish a locally-controlled public water district whose charge will be to manage and balance the basin.  Until the water district is formed and operational, interim measures are needed.
The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) requires that the groundwater basin be sustainably managed. The recent computer model update shows that growth in water uses would make this task much harder, with greater economic impacts on current water users.  PRO Water Equity recognizes our water resource limitations and wants to ensure protection of our rural residents and current business operations.
PRO Water Equity supports:
  • A new ordinance for Responsible Interim Management of the Paso Basin with a sunset clause.
  • Water neutrality for new water uses.
  • Include the provisions of the current Urgency Ordinance.
  • Limit provisions for vested rights to those under the current Urgency Ordinance (i.e. no new vested rights).
  • Sunset when a Groundwater Sustainability Plan is in place or an entity (i.e. Paso Basin Water District) is able to manage the basin.
  • Requesting County staff to work with basin stakeholders, particularly the Paso Basin Advisory Committee, on specific ordinance language.
Please speak at Tuesday’s meeting if you can. The BoS must understand that the well level declines are still occurring and the “timeout” is still needed. If you cannot attend, please send an email. If the Board does not hear public support for this issue, it will die.Thank you for your continued support and input in this important process.

Board of Supervisors
Frank Mecham, District 1
Bruce Gibson, District 2
Adam Hill, District 3
Lynn Compton, District 4
Debbie Arnold, District 5

Sad day at the BoS

The situation in the Paso Basin is even worse than when the Urgency Ordinance was adopted in 2013.  According to the projections in the computer model update, with growth the overdraft in the basin will increase to 26,000 acre-ft/year.

By a 3-2 vote, the Board of Supervisors voted not to pursue a countywide water offset ordinance.  Read the SLO Tribune story.

PRO Water Equity submitted a letter to BoS on 2-1-15 in support of the ag offset ordinance.

Do You Have Well Problems?

Anonymous Water Issues Survey

The County Drought Task Force has created a supplemental domestic water issues survey.The survey is anonymous and does not ask for any identifying information. It is intended to support the County’s request for federal disaster assistance for individuals. Those who wish to remain anonymous are encouraged to complete the supplemental survey online or by phone at (805) 781-5011.

Help Your Neighbors
Completing this survey will help your neighbors qualify for federal disaster assistance. It also helps document well problems in the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin and elsewhere throughout the county. Please take a few minutes to complete the survey. 


Could courts manage the Paso Robles groundwater basin effectively?

In recent public presentations, in various letters to the editors of local media, on local radio and during the Water Summit at the Board of Supervisors meeting on Oct. 14, Cindy Steinbeck has consistently said that adjudication is the proper way to manage the Paso Robles groundwater basin. If that is the case, then you could reasonably expect that basins that already have been adjudicated in California would be in a sustainable condition, or on their way to sustainability. The facts show otherwise.

The recently passed Pavley-Dickinson legislation will change groundwater management in California at the most fundamental level — through mandated local management of basins, with those in the most trouble having the earliest deadlines for a sustainability plan. The legislation includes a list of 26 groundwater basins in California that have been adjudicated and are exempt from further management, the idea being they are already being adequately managed by the courts.

A review of these 26 basins shows some interesting results that bring Ms. Steinbeck’s theory of the effectiveness of court management into question. Ten of those 26 basins are labeled as “high-priority” by the Department of Water Resources. This is the most severe level in terms of the lack of health of a basin.

An additional nine of those 26 basins are labeled “medium-priority” by the DWR, one step down from high-priority. It begs the question: If adjudication is the best path to sustainability, why are over 70 percent of adjudicated basins still in the unhealthy medium- or highpriority condition?

Here is the stunner: Eight of the basins that have a High-Priority rating have been adjudicated and managed by the courts for more than 30 years, and they still aren’t in a sustainable state. Mediumand high-priority basins not on the adjudicated list will have stringent management mandates with short time frames for reaching sustainability.

Adjudication is a slow, expensive process that pits neighbor against neighbor. All the money paid out is for experts and attorneys; not one dollar goes to solving the basin’s troubles, planning for the future or investigating and developing sources of supplemental water.

For my money, waiting eight, 10 or 15 years for adjudication to take place, during which time nothing is done to help the health of the basin, means an uncertainty that could stretch over an even longer period if the ineffectiveness of management by the courts in evidence now persists.

The basin can’t wait that long.

Laurie Gage is a resident of rural Paso Robles and vice president of PRO Water Equity.

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