Water will once again be top-of-mind for the Paso Robles City Council as tonight it considers adopting a guide for stabilizing the North County’s water supply.
The move comes a few weeks after the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors, a partner in the plan, adopted guidelines known as the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin Management Plan.
In 2008, the city and the county joined together in an approach to manage groundwater levels by developing long-term strategies for city, agricultural and rural residential water users.
Public outreach projects, reports and study updates on the basin’s water levels are key elements in the plan. It also strives to provide education, new data and water-use patterns to help users track consumption and conservation in a comprehensive way.
For residents, farmers and businesses, adoption of a plan means they will have more opportunities to learn about how their water use today affects the long-term and how all users can work together to consume less.
Should the city adopt the plan, as expected, Paso Robles would move forward on those efforts with the county.Groundwater, the primary source in the basin, is pumped for agriculture irrigation, urban consumption and commercial users in Shandon, Creston, Atascadero and Paso Robles.
Studies so far show that use has increased over time and is nearing the amount that can safely be pumped every year — about 97,900 acre-feet — according to city documents.
An acre-foot of water typically serves up to three homes for a year in the hot North County.
In 2006, estimates in the study showed that 89,473 acre-feet were being pumped out of the basin annually. Total pumping increased by 5,516 acre-feet per year between 2000 and 2006, the most recent data available. That means if pumping continued at that rate, and no water management actions were taken, an overdraft would result in less than 10 years, according to the study.
Christopher Alakel, Paso Robles’ water resources manager, said updating groundwater basin levels will be one of the first studies to be done once the plan is approved.
When they spoke at the Board of Supervisors meeting in March, wine industry representatives largely opposed the idea that their growth in the region was mostly responsible for declining levels.
In 2006, water demand was identified by user category and defined as: 67 percent from agriculture; 17 percent by city use; 13 percent from residential use outside a city; and 3 percent by small business, according to the study.
The basin plan has gone through several public hearings and workshops over the years that were designed to encourage all its users to work together to conserve and track their consumption.