Prior planning, alternate sources dampen impact of Cambria water restriction on other agencies

Nonpotable watering business booms

ktanner@thetribunenews.comSeptember 26, 2013 

Former Cambria Community Services District Director Frank DeMicco, at lectern, admonishes current directors at a special meeting Friday for not taking conservation measures sooner this year.

KATHE TANNER — ktanner@thetribunenews.com

The impact of a ban on use on potable water for irrigation on the Cambria school district, county park, State Parks campground and at least one major business will be minimal, they say, due to prior planning and alternative sources of water.

The Cambria Community Services District Board of Directors, faced with historically low well levels in its primary aquifer, voted unanimously Sept. 20 to ban use of tap water for watering outdoor plants.

County uses well water

Watering at the county’s Shamel Park has been cut to one day a week from three, said Curtis Black, deputy director of county parks. Eliminating all watering isn’t an option, he said.

“Public parks are for the public good. We do need to keep the turf alive,” Black said. “Kids need some place to go to lay on the grass, or play a game of soccer or touch football.”

The county’s continuing, albeit diminished, landscape watering will not violate the district’s ban, since it uses water from its own well — not far from a monitoring well that determines whether the district can continue pumping from a well upstream.

Black said district officials indicated they believe the county’s park-watering schedule was affecting the levels at the monitoring well, but when he compared the district’s well-level readings between Aug. 21 and Sept. 18 against the county’s irrigation schedule of 11 days during that period, only five of those days corresponded to a drop in that well reading.

Conversely, “on 15 the 18 days during that period that we did not irrigate, the well reading also dropped below 3 feet. So, something else (is affecting the monitoring-well level),” he said. When the monitoring well level drops below 3 feet, the district’s water use license forbids use of the upstream well.

State Parks xeriscaped

State Parks, which uses district water at its San Simeon Creek Campground, planned ahead and will be only minimally affected, according to parks Superintendent Nick Franco.

“That’s one of the significant benefits of the major landscaping project done a little more than 10 years ago in the campground. It’s all natives and drought-tolerant plants, and there is no irrigation,” he said in an email Tuesday. At “the campground and day-use areas, we don't irrigate … We do have a ranger and a maintenance worker in housing in the campground, and they will have to cease any minor watering they do near their house, but that’s minimal and they will comply.”

School has well, stores runoff

Local schools also say the impact will be minimal. The irrigation ban likely will affect only small patches of turf in the Santa Lucia Middle School quad and alongside the Old Grammar School building, according to Lee Wight, facilities director for Coast Unified School District.

The new grammar school is irrigated with an underground system that holds rain runoff or trucked-in recycled water, he said, and the high school uses water from its own, separate well on Santa Rosa Creek.

Nursery uses cistern

One of the town’s larger businesses, Moonstone Properties, is also prepared, according to George Marschall. Moonstone owns Cambria Nursery, Cambria Pines Lodge and other lodgings.

The nursery irrigates with non-potable water from two 10,000-gallon tanks, he said. On the down side, he said the irrigation ban already has hurt nursery sales to the tune of more than $500 a day, as people stop buying plants to reduce water use. He said the nursery has stocked up on drought-tolerant varieties, and the business plans to hold a series of water-conservation-for-gardeners classes, with the first on Wednesday, Oct. 2.

New business started

One recycled-water-providing entrepreneur has been swamped with calls for service, and another is starting up a new business. Brandon Stiler at Winsor Construction said the office already has had many calls about delivering recycled water. The firm has three tanker trucks, but they’re not always available, he said, since they’re often tied up on construction sites. The firm also is committed to irrigating at many of the larger motels.

Paul Reichardt of Cambria said his daughter, Coast Union High School grad Heather Menges of Cayucos, is launching “The Watering Can” service, with a 500-gallon tank on a trailer. “She’ll park it at your house for a couple of hours, with a pump, so you can water your yard.”

Mary Evans, manager of Cambria Hardware, has stocked up on 2- and 5-gallon buckets, for transporting bath or shower water to gardens, and has ordered some 275-gallon water-storage tanks for people to have filled on their property or transport by pickup or trailer to CCSD’s nonpotable water tap on San Simeon Creek Road. She said larger tanks or cistern systems are available at Farm Supply stores or Loomis Tank Center in Paso Robles.

Getting the word out

Services district officials were still, as of Tuesday, working through how the ban will be enforced, where and how to make recycled water more easily accessible to the public, and other issues. They’re also preparing a mailer to explain the ban and answering a flood of questions from as Cambria customers trying to figure out how the irrigation restrictions will affect their own properties.

As of Monday, the monitoring well was still barely above 3 feet and the district was still pumping from its well on Santa Rosa Creek, which has plenty of water in the aquifer. Relieved of the pumping pressure, San Simeon Creek well levels had risen to 3.86 feet on Monday, up 1.02 feet from 2.84 feet Sept. 16, the lowest mid-September readings since the drought years of 1988-89.

Meeting Thursday

The regular monthly meeting of the Cambria Community Services District Board of Directors starts at 12:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26, at the Veterans Memorial Building, 1000 Main St.

Agenda items include the following:

  • The status of intent-to-serve letters (promises to provide water and sewer service required before builders can obtain county building permits);
  • Water service wait lists;
  • An agreement for a consultant to do hydrogological modeling of the lower San Simeon Creek aquifer to determine if it’s suitable for use in connection with a long-term water supply project, possibly desalination; and
  • An intent-to-serve letter for 16 multi-family units on Green Street and Londonderry Lane for Pacific Western Bank.

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