To better learn how water is being used in the North County, an outreach group contacted 67 rural property owners last winter to ask them to participate in a program that lets the county dip into their wells to measure sinking groundwater levels.
Ultimately, 30 property owners agreed, a number that the outreach organizers said was positive because it fills in blank spots when tracking local groundwater.
More data means better insight into how water is being used and how it can be conserved.
The Paso Robles Groundwater Basin Management Plan’s blue ribbon steering committee will continue to reach out now that the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors and city of Paso Robles have adopted their management guide, in the works since 2008.
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The guide is based on more than a decade of study, but further data are needed.
That’s where the committee comes in. Its members want to bring together wineries, ranchers, governments, residents and businesses that use the basin, which stretches about 790 square miles from Atascadero, east to Shandon and north to Monterey County.
“We’re all in the basin together, and we all draw our water from (it). And it’s important for us to know what’s going on,” committee member Mike Cussen said at the Paso Robles City Council meeting Tuesday.
Tracking the water levels is key.
Last year, the Board of Supervisors said the basin is approaching overdraft, meaning more water is being pumped than nature is replenishing. That’s scary for many, including committee member Sue Luft, a rural residential water user with a 4-acre vineyard in Templeton’s countryside.
“We’re small, but we’re concerned about our future ability to live here. We don’t know if we’ll have a water supply 15 years out,” Luft said.Working together to find ways to save water and track its use are the cornerstones of the committee’s efforts.
“There’s no one answer, no big miracle that will solve the problem,” steering committee chairman Larry Werner said. “It’s (about) small changes across the board in different areas.”
The group mailed 6,100 brochures with water-saving tips to rural residential users this spring. The timing was strategic, Werner said, so the users would be prepared for summer landscaping, which typically skyrockets in the North County’s hot summers.
Werner is one of 17 members, plus 17 alternates, on the basin’s steering committee.
The group doesn’t have ties to one particular governmental entity.
“Our credibility is in our independence,” Werner said.
That was an important message when members approached the private well owners this winter. The goal was to ask them to allow the county to dip into their wells twice a year to measure water levels.
It started when members pulled up a map of basin water level data from 2006 and noticed blank spots. They cross-checked those areas with people they knew and reached out to them, asking if they’d contribute to monitoring to get better data.