Water conservation must become the norm in Cambria

San Luis Obispo - The TribuneMarch 6, 2014 

By William Seavey’s Viewpoint (“The four failings of the CCSD,” Feb. 27), as usual, makes good points. I can agree with some. Others overlook important considerations. Regarding the recent spills of 433,000 gallons, the Cambria Community Services District seems negligent in not providing a better explanation than a failure of a phone line. Even though the amount of water is less than 6,000 Cambrians use in two days, such a loss looks inexcusable opposite tough measures recently imposed by the board. My view is the CCSD should consider firing the responsible party or offer a more complete explanation.

The historical inability in not securing an additional water supply on the part of previous and present boards gives the impression of inaction but is far more complicated. Desal is an example.

The county, state Fish and Wildlife and the Coastal Commission, to name but a few, have a say in taking any project forward. And the regulatory environment is only one hurdle. Ask any farmer or rancher around town. Getting permits to do necessary work can make projects impossible. Like Seavey, there are many thoughtful people in Cambria with whom I will agree on many things, but I probably have a different perspective on water than nearly all of them.

When a boy, my father would have to pump and carry water and then heat it over a wood-fired stove to have a bath, measures unthinkable in 21st-century America where we Americans uniformly share many conveniences. But what’s behind this convenience?

I spend countless hours maintaining miles of pipes to ensure domestic and irrigation water. So, though I enjoy our modern conveniences, I do not view a 15-minute shower and a green lawn as entitlements. The expectation that water will forever come out of taps and cost next to nothing is unrealistic in a regularly dry state with more people than 85 percent of the nations on earth.

This area has always been semi-arid with average annual rainfall between 15 and 20 inches. Following 3.4 inches of rain on our farm five miles east of town between Feb. 26 and March 2 on top of 3.2 inches earlier last month, Santa Rosa Creek is raging under our bridge — literally many millions of gallons passing each hour. Even so, water hasn’t yet reached the ocean, being consumed by bone dry aquifers on its way to town. We remain in a serious drought.

My considered opinion is that the effects of climate change are settling in much more rapidly than many predict. Geological evidence indicates that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels (the primary greenhouse gas) varied between 170 and 280 ppm during the last 1 million years until very recently. Today, it is over 400 ppm, suggesting the expected slow change in climate may be accelerated.

Some experts believe we passed the geological tipping point in 2007. All this suggests paradigm change and that recent aberrant weather may, in fact, represent the future. The conservation measures mandated by the CCSD do not require “super conservers,” but rather reflect reality. If you need 15-minute showers and a green lawn, move east of the Mississippi. Those of us who stay will need to get by on less water.

Michael Broadhurst owns Dragon Springs Farm on Santa Rosa Creek Road and is co-manager of the Cambria Farmers Market.

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