Paso Robles OKs 2-year ban on drilling new groundwater wells

dsneed@thetribunenews.comMarch 5, 2014 

In response to the crisis in the Paso Robles groundwater basin, the city of Paso Robles has banned the drilling of new groundwater wells within city limits until February 2016.

The City Council originally adopted an interim ban on Feb. 4 and extended it Tuesday to cover a total of two years. The ban also prohibits the modification of existing wells to increase groundwater extraction.

The groundwater basin is one of the city’s main sources of water. Other sources include an allocation from the Nacimiento pipeline project and Salinas River flows. An estimated 1,000 acres within the city limits are irrigated by private wells.

The purpose of the ban is to give city officials time to prepare the reports and studies needed to find a more permanent solution to falling water levels in the basin. These could include adopting a permanent ordinance or general plan amendment, Community Services Director Ed Gallagher said in a staff report.

“The condition of the basin and pending litigation appear to warrant such action on the part of the city,” he said.

In recent years, aquifer levels in the Paso Robles basin have gone down two to six feet a year, depending on location, caused by increased pumping and drought conditions.

In August, the county Board of Supervisors adopted an emergency ordinance that bans for two years new pumping from the basin unless it is offset by an equal amount of conservation.

Two groups have sued the county, Paso Robles and other entities in an effort to overturn the emergency ban and protect the rights of landowners to pump from the basin. Efforts are also underway to form a water management district for the basin.

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