Viewpoint

Water allocation a fair solution to basin crisis

June 24, 2013 

Cam Berlogar hooks his water tanker up to a pipe that leads to a storage tank at James Cross’ Creston home. Cross’ wells have gone dry.

JOE JOHNSTON — jjohnston@thetribunenews.com Buy Photo

PRO Water Equity would like to thank The Tribune for its investigative report on the most crucial issue facing North County. Studies of the Paso Robles groundwater basin over the years have shown that the demand on the basin has been exceeding the supply.

Those of us who own homes and businesses that are dependent on the groundwater basin know all too well that we have reached a crisis situation. We are lowering our well pumps, drilling new wells and trucking water to our homes. We are watching our neighbors spend their children’s college funds on a new well or continue trucking water because they don’t have enough equity in their homes to pay the $20,000 and more for a new well.

It seems like the race to the bottom. Wells are being drilled deeper, as if there is more water down below. However, the basin is of limited depth and the only source of water is rain that falls within the basin watersheds. The water quality is often worse with depth, and the flow rates are lower.

Many basin users have joined together to push for solutions to stabilize the declining well levels, solutions that have been known for years and just need to be put in place. We recognize that a variety of solutions are needed, and there is no time to waste. The economy of North County and all we love about this area are at stake.

PRO Water Equity is a diverse, all-volunteer coalition of Paso Robles groundwater basin users who believe in finding a fair way of sharing the groundwater that belongs to all of us. We are supported by winery and vineyard owners, olive growers, other agriculturalists and many rural residents who overlie the basin.

We support a management structure over the groundwater basin that is fair to all basin users. We are working with the county and the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin Management Plan Blue Ribbon Committee through the public process of evaluating the forms of groundwater management structures that would work in our basin.

PRO Water Equity recently met with the Paso Robles Agricultural Alliance for Groundwater Solutions (PRAAGS) to learn about their proposal. PRAAGS is promoting a California Water District that would be controlled entirely by the largest landowners. This form of a water district is obviously unacceptable to most basin landowners. It does not provide fair representation — or any representation — for the vast majority of the people who depend on the groundwater basin for their water supply.

PRAAGS’s other premise is that we can supply our way out of this situation. The fact is that groundwater levels continue to decline, and any supplemental water supply project would take more than 10 years before it could deliver any water to the basin. There simply is not enough groundwater for all users at the current rate of pumping, and water use reduction is the only solution available in the near term.

There is strong public support for pumping reductions. Many agriculturalists and other basin residents are in agreement that water use allocations are the only reasonable — and fair — solution to bring the basin into balance. It is clear that nothing will lessen the demand without a management structure that will monitor and limit pumping. Please visit our website — http://www.prowaterequity.org   — to learn more.

Sue Luft is a retired engineer, president of PRO Water Equity, a member of the Blue Ribbon Committee and chairwoman of the County Water Resources Advisory Committee.

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