Services district directors haven’t really solved yet how the phrase “quality of life” applies to Cambria’s baseline demand for water and, as the bottom line, how much of that precious resource the town really will need in years to come.
After an hour-long debate March 22, Cambria Community Services District directors instead asked for data on “revising the 50-percent ‘quality of life’ increase” specified in a 2004 water-source report in the district’s water master plan. That study states that, when a new water source goes on line, it should allow residents to use and average about 18 units of water every two months, which would be a 50 percent bonus over the existing average of about 12 units.
District directors also approved 4-0 having staff research “what is really needed as a contingency” water supply, bridging the gap between what residents and
businesses are using now and what they might need or want to have available in the future.
The two issues have been hot topics recently and in the past, as the district wrestles with where and how to get “new water” and how much of it the town could need.
Director Muril Clift was absent March 22 but has been adamant in the past about wanting to eliminate the 50 percent increase and the “quality of life” designation.
On March 22, Board President Allan MacKinnon advised his peers to “remove the ‘quality of life’ (provision), analyze the data and look at the moratorium as being viable in present conversations.”
But nobody else moved that concept forward.
Director Jim Bahringer
advocated for changing the phrase but keeping some level of “contingency supply” in the calculations for future water needs.
Director Gail Robinette said that while board members seemed to agree that the 50 percent level is too high, “we can’t set a backup percent, although we can make it clear we don’t want to stay there. Today, we don’t have enough background to know where we want to land” in terms of a contingency supply.
Bahringer’s concept ultimately prevailed.
So, how much water really is enough? And what did a previous board really mean when they approved the nebulous “quality of life” phrase?
In 2003, the district board was trying to establish a baseline water demand as part of the Water Master Plan. Several alternatives were considered, including the current average of 12 units per household per two-month billing period, and options adding 10 percent, 20 percent and 50 percent.
The answer would help establish how big a planned desalination plant should be.
On July 24, 2003, after lengthy discussion between board members, engineer Bob Gresens, then General Manager Vern Hamilton and community members, Director Greg Sanders made this motion: “Select desalination as the alternative water source for Cambria and that the capacity of the plant be limited to … 4,650 total residential hookups, plus an increment of additional water for existing residents that would take the maximum goal of per residential water use up to 18 as opposed to 12 units.”
That existing increment was labeled a “quality of life” increase, and was included as such in the Water Master Plan adopted in sections between 2004 and 2008.
Since then, district staff also has regarded that “quality of life” increase as a safety net for emergencies, such as catastrophic failure of the water-supply system or a natural disaster, such as major earthquake, wildfire, storm or tsunami. Changing agricultural demands on the two watersheds, increasing regulatory demands to protect habitats, climate change and demographic shifts also can af fect water usage and availability.
For more on the history of the “quality of life” increase, go to www.cambria csd.org and Pages 94 through 99 of the March 22 agenda.