It takes a community to come to consensus on a solution

April 25, 2014 

As thankful as we are for the recent rainfall, Cambria remains in a drought condition. This is still a crisis for the future well-being of our community. We will continually be threatened with the potential of depleting our marginal water supply until a community-wide supported supplemental water source is obtained.

Conservation alone cannot satisfy the need for drought independence and provide a reasonable quality of life for Cambrians. Our current Stage 3 drought emergency with its stringent water saving measures will get us through in the short term but is not reasonable as a future way of living.

The required 250 acre-feet supplemental water source as defined by the Cambria Community Services District in 2012 could be obtained in a number of ways in concert with reasonable conservation measures. The currently proposed alternatives are San Simeon off-stream storage, a pipeline from Whale Rock Reservoir (purchased water), a San Simeon brackish water desalination system, a Shamel Park seawater desalination system and a recycled water system.

Many Cambria citizens are frustrated at the way the CCSD is handling the water crisis. The present agitation with the CCSD must be diffused and replaced with a proactive attitude toward finding a viable solution.

Cambria residents, business and home rental owners must come together in a forum with the single purpose of selecting one or a combination of the previously mentioned water alternatives. Such a goal can only be achieved by all the forum members coming to the table with open minds, without any hidden agendas and with the ability to make compromises for the overall good of the community. Only then can a community wide consensus be achieved — i.e., the majority of the committee members would be very satisfied with the outcome, some relatively satisfied and some members (although they may be holding their noses) would fully support the agreed-upon water alternative.

In reality there never are all the facts necessary to make “a perfect decision.” In Cambria’s case there has been a tremendous amount of information generated over the past 20 years on the supplemental water options to provide an excellent factual database. Most crucial would be obtaining agreement with the many assumptions (constraints, estimates, compromises, outcomes, etc.) needed, along with the known facts in order to make an informed decision.

It seems as Americans we all start to manage things when we get to a crisis rather than anticipating the fact that we’re getting close to a crisis. The Governor, our Board of Supervisors and our CCSD have all stated we are in a drought crisis. As Americans we are also very good at responding to and resolving crisis-driven problems — and there lies the hope for Cambria.

California’s drought status has put the numerous state and federal agencies needed to approve (permit) any of the water alternatives in a more accommodating mode of operations. Let us not miss this “Silver Lining” opportunity to make a decision to move forward with a community-supported supplemental water project.

Cambria resident Allan MacKinnon served on the Cambria Community Services District Board of Directors from 2008 through 2012.

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