CCSD hopes to prune water use, grow connections

Cambria asks county to approve 1 percent growth rate, but expects to see a fraction of that

ktanner@thetribunenews.comJanuary 24, 2013 

If Cambria Community Services District directors prevail, the town could begin to grow by up to 1 percent per year soon, based on how many residential water connections the district has at the time, how much water has been conserved during the previous year and how much water has been used.
The district board would review and reset the percentage annually.

The board voted unanimously Jan. 17 to recommend the 1 percent growth rate to county planners and decision makers, and set the projected impact at Level 1, in which the town’s projected consumption is estimated to exceed dependable supply within nine years. That’s down from Level 3.

Those recommendations were submitted Jan. 22 in a comment letter to the Board of Supervisors. 
CCSD directors say raising Cambria’s growth rate to 1 percent technically wouldn’t lift the district’s current moratorium on new water connections, because the new water use triggered by that growth would be tied to a commensurate amount of water savings achieved through an aggressive water-conservation program.

According to staff, as of Dec. 31, 3,778 single family homes in the district, including vacation-rental homes, had water connections or grandfathered commitments for water service; 1 percent of that would allow 37 or 38 new connections per year. The board’s previous discussions about the issue have included suggestions of issuing 10 or 15 letters in a year.

County growth rates

Every two years, the county uses summaries from various communities to make recommendations for countywide and community-specific growth rates. Supervisors are tentatively set to review the Resource Management System and Growth Management Ordinance during their March 12 meeting. 
Cambria’s growth rate has essentially been at zero for more than a decade. In November 2001, the district board declared a water-supply emergency and imposed a moratorium on new connections.

The county’s Local Coastal Program or North Coast Area Plan states that, if the district hasn’t yet developed a new water supply project, the future water demand of any new connections must be offset by water conservation.

Supply options currently being studied for environmental impacts are desalinating brackish water, using Whale Rock Reservoir to seasonally store some of Cambria’s water, and surface water storage on ranch land north of San Simeon Creek Road.

Conservation efforts

CCSD staff and directors say that, since 2001, the town has reduced its water use, and the district is embarking on an aggressive water-conservation program, such as the one proposed by consultant Bill Maddaus on how the district could increase its annual water savings.

He gave the board an initial look at his draft report Jan. 17. A more complete version of that report is due back to the board at its Feb. 28 meeting.

Bob Gresens, district engineer, estimates that increased conservation could save the district about 75 acre feet per year by the year 2020, about 10 percent of current use, or about twice the water-savings goal set by the district’s 2010 Urban Water Management Plan, which called for using 105 gallons per capita per day by then.

State regulators have given the district annual rights to use 1,230 and 518 acre-feet respectively from the San Simeon and Santa Rosa valley groundwater basins, with further limits on total yearly pumping (1,230 acre feet) and how much can be pumped during the dry season, when supplies can be low.

Water use declines

According to the district, after a high of 821 acre feet used in 2003-2004, district consumption has ranged from 674 to 785 acre feet a year. In the past five years, use has averaged approximately 85 percent of the 810 acre-feet-per-year average needed to keep the two water basins in balance.

Among suggestions that Maddaus estimates will hit the right balance between water savings and expenditures are:

• Updating the district’s tiered water rates, with high users paying more per unit.

• Offering surveys of customers’ water-use efficiency.

• Requiring irrigation and landscape upgrades on new landscaping.

• Further controlling water losses in the system.

• Expanding public outreach.

• Giving rebates on water-efficient clothes washers.

• Expanding the district’s rebates for high-efficiency toilets, and

• Handing out more low-flow showerheads (which the district is giving away at the Cambria Farmers Markets on Jan. 25, Feb. 1 and 15, and March 1 and 15).

Maddaus estimates the district’s new plumbing code and the program he recommends could save more than 101 acre feet of water a year by 2019 (or about 12.37 percent of the district’s total production), and 165 acre feet by 2040.

He said that plan would cost about $400,000 a year for the first five years, and about $2.75 million by 2040. However, the water saved would be worth $1,150 per acre foot.

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