San Simeon's water could soon taste less salty

ktanner@thetribunenews.comFebruary 20, 2014 

The taste of salt in water provided by San Simeon Community Services District may diminish in coming days as the district starts blending in Hearst Ranch well water.

Sodium levels have spiked during the drought — up to 910 milligrams per liter in January, more than 30 times the 28 milligrams per liter that the district measured the previous two Januaries.

That’s well in excess of the state’s maximum contaminant level range for chloride, 500 milligrams per liter. But that’s a secondary standard, for contaminants that affect taste, odor or appearance, not health.

The water is still good to use for most consumers, said Charles Grace, district manager. However, he advised, people who are on limited-sodium diets may want to consult with their physicians.

Straight seawater, by comparison, is nearly 40 times as salty as the highest San Simeon chloride measurement, with about 35,000 milligrams per liter of salt.

The district’s wells are the lowest they’ve been in years. The distance down to the water level (not how deep the water is in the well) was at 14.7 feet in January, up from 9.8 feet in 2010.

The January chloride level measurement showed a huge increase from December, when it was 41 milligrams per liter.

The Hearst Ranch well, Grace said, is only about 200 yards upstream so it, too, could eventually be affected by rising chloride levels. The district was due to start using the well on Wednesday.

Grace estimated that without additional rain the community could run out of water by mid-summer, but “we may not last that long, depending on the water quality.”

If chloride levels get too high, the water could be used for showering, bathing, and washing dishes and clothes, but “might not be palatable” for drinking, cooking, ice and other consumable uses.

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