Drought emergency declaration expected today in Cambria

Outdoor watering ban, heavy penalties for overuse expected

betling@thetribunenews.comJanuary 30, 2014 

Faced with the prospect of running out of water in as little as three months if there’s no further rainfall, Cambrians will be subject to severe restrictions on water use and heavy penalties for overuse if a staff recommendation is, as expected, adopted by the Cambria Community Services District Board of Directors today, Jan. 30.

The district draws its water from wells on San Simeon and Santa Rosa creeks. As of the most recent readings, the San Simeon wells had ticked up from prior readings, but were still at the lowest levels at this time of year since the drought year of 1990.

There’s about 100 acre-feet of water left in San Simeon aquifer, based on the 6.94-foot well readings as of Jan. 21, district engineer Bob Gresens estimates in his staff report for today’s meeting, based on usage data since the well field was established in 1978.

Estimates for remaining water in the Santa Rosa aquifer are not as clear, since the district’s production well was moved upstream a decade ago due to MTBE contamination in the late 1990s, after the most recent modeling studies were done. The best estimate is about 50 acre-feet remain with no further rain, for a total of 150 acre-feet between the two aquifers.

That’s about what the district used in the first three months of 2013, when there was little rain, but more than in prior years, when landscape watering demands were lessened by normal rainfall.

As of Jan. 26, the district has recorded a scant .87 inches of rain in the current rain year, which runs from July 1 to June 30. That’s compared to 7.83 inches at this point in the previous rain year, which ended up with a total of just 10.44 inches, well below the district average of more than 20 inches.

To encourage water conservation, district staff is recommending directors today impose previously codified “Stage 3” restrictions, intended to “conserve the water supply for human consumption, sanitation and fire protection,” including:

• A prohibition on all outdoor watering of landscaping with potable water;

• A prohibition on washing vehicles, including cars and boats, and washing down sidewalks, parking lots, patios with potable waters;

• A prohibition on planting any non-native or non-drought tolerant plants;

• Closure of public restrooms;

• Restriction of water use by commercial properties to 80 percent of actual usage during the prior year; and

• Penalties for water usage in excess of two units of water (about 1,496 gallons) per resident per month (penalties will only be assessed on excess water usage).

Excess usage penalties start at 500 percent of the amount in excess of the allocation.
The number of permanent residents for residential accounts is assumed to be one, unless a form is submitted to the district naming each additional resident at the address. To be a resident, the person must live at the address during the entire billing period, or for three of the last six months, according to the code.

Besides restricting water consumption, the district is also exploring short-term water supply alternatives with state agencies.

Emergency water supply alternatives include a prefabricated water treatment facility using brackish water from district-owned property on San Simeon Creek Road.

According to board President Jim Bahringer, he will request all the water-related items be moved to near the top of today’s meeting agenda, so audience members will not need to wait through other items.

The meeting begins at 12:30 p.m. today, Jan. 30, at the Veterans Memorial Building, 100 Main St., Cambria. Video of the meetings is available online at www.slo-span.org, both live and archived after the meeting.

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