Viewpoint

Cambrians are being railroaded

July 3, 2014 

Like many Cambria residents, I have noticed many vehicles carrying water in large plastic tanks around town and out of town. Residents are taking advantage of the free nonpotable water from the well at the Rodeo Grounds to water their gardens and landscaping. The Cambria Community Services District board made it available after declaring a Stage III Water Emergency Jan. 30. In response to the water emergency and the threat of depleting the aquifer, our source of all water, the CCSD acted to restrict water use by residents. Cambrians responded, cutting water use by a third in the following months.

One of the restrictions was no outdoor watering with treated, potable water. To help Cambrians preserve their landscaping and gardens, the CCSD board offered the free water to anyone who comes to get it. Cambrians bought tanks, loaded them on their pickups and drove to the Rodeo Grounds to fill up.

Water is water, and in this case, it’s all coming from the same place, the Santa Rosa creek aquifer. It’s not potable, suitable for drinking, only because it hasn’t been treated to safe drinking standards. It’s just pumped out of the ground.

In a water shortage, we must set priorities as to how to use this scarce resource. The CCSD board has done this by not allowing residents to water their yards or wash cars. It’s one way to reserve water for the more vital uses of drinking, bathing and cleaning. This is a good idea. Unfortunately, the water that is being used outdoors is still coming from the same depleted aquifer. I fail to see how transporting water by vehicle to water our gardens as opposed to watering from a spout on the side of a house will help extend our resources when the water is coming from the same aquifer as our tap water.

Whether we pump water from the same aquifer and run it through a pipe to our home or pump it into a container and transport it by vehicle to our home has the same effect on the aquifer. It hastens the depletion of the aquifer and thus exacerbates the water shortage crisis we have been told we’re in. Taking water from our drinking water aquifer either way exacerbates the water crisis.

Why would anyone want to make the crisis worse? There are only two reasons I can think of: Either it’s a mistake or it’s deliberate. If the powers that be are unaware that the aquifer is being depleted by pumping it to water gardens, it is gross incompetence. If they know full well the aquifer is being depleted, then it’s being depleted by design.

One remedy to this situation is to conserve the limited water in the Santa Rosa aquifer for drinking, bathing and cleaning. Another is to find another source of water. The CCSD has chosen to build a facility to desalinate brackish water, increasing the amount available. No one can yet tell what the cost of that facility will be, but estimates run from millions to tens of millions of dollars. This places the citizens of Cambria in the position of paying millions of dollars to water their flowers.

Cambrians are being railroaded! I submit that this water crisis is by design. The powers that be have wanted a desal plant for decades. The drought has created conditions that pressure residents to agree to pay any price for water. When the realities of dividing the cost of desal among 6,000 residents arrive on their water bill, people will be upset but the money will have been spent.

Desalination is not the right solution to Cambria’s water shortage. Replacing leaky infrastructure and off-stream storage are better choices. Now is the time to end this foolishness, and the people who want the foolishness to end need to take action to end it.

John Zinke, M.D., is a retired physician living in Cambria.

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