Up here in the North County weve had some cold nights. Wednesday morning I saw frost on the roof across the street for the first time this fall. Now Im hoping for a White Christmas. Yes, with this current drought Id even welcome snow.
You probably heard were pumping too much water from the Paso Robles groundwater basin, which is an underground layer of dirt, gravel and other materials that is saturated with water.
Im sorry they named it after Paso Robles. Its way bigger than Paso. At least half the North County sits on it. And so does a chunk of southern Monterey County.
And now were pumping more water out of it than nature replaces. If you overdraw your bank account too often you end up bankrupt. Im afraid we might be heading for water bankruptcy.
Naturally were looking to blame somebody. Weve noticed a lot of North County hills are no longer golden with grain and wild oats. They are now carpeted with lush, green, irrigated vineyards. Neighboring homeowners have also reported wells going dry.
So, people blame the irrigated vineyards. But theyre still just suspects. Nothings been conclusively proven. And we all know some grape growers who are fine people. I think we need to put meters on every well that taps into the basin. The readings from those meters might prove the vineyards innocent, or not.
But we need the meters for something more important than placing blame. We need them to properly manage the basin. They could help water district officers set each pumpers fair share of water.
Its unfair for property owners to take unlimited amounts of water from their land. Water isnt like a vein of ore. It flows like surface water but more slowly. Ive read it flows 50 feet a day on average. It cant be fenced in. It isnt part of the property.
So if you pump more than your fair share youre taking somebody elses water. We need a water district to figure out what the fair shares should be and then to supervise them.
Also, theres another reason why pumpers shouldnt take too much water. Over-pumping can damage the water basin. When water users take out more than nature can replace, the underground formations often collapse. Gravity drags them toward the core of the Earth. The land in that vicinity sinks.
A famous case of that happened in an area southwest of Mendota, Calif. Between 1925 and 1977 irrigation pumping caused the land to sink 29 feet. Groundwater pumping is serious business. It needs to be properly regulated.
Phil Dirkx has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades, and his column is published weekly. Reach him at 238-2372 or email@example.com.