Cambria officials are considering allowing new water hookups for the first time since a moratorium took effect in November 2001.
At that time, the Cambria Community Services District found that demand was outstripping water supplies. Now it has found that conservation has worked so well that the district board believes a limited number of “intent-to-serve’’ letters can be issued.
Doing so would allow people on a long-standing waiting list to start building and generate revenue, which would help stimulate the town’s economy, Cambria CSD directors said.
The directors expect to vote June 28 on a preliminary resolution to release a limited number of “intent-to-serve” letters — necessary to get a water meter — based on available supplies and an amped-up conservation program, especially for large-volume users. Directors intend to increase the budget for water-conservation rebates per year to encourage installation of efficient toilets, showers and washing machines, according to district board President Allan MacKinnon. He said there are rich opportunities to save water among the district’s largest users, including motels along Moonstone Beach Drive and Coast Unified School District.
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The school district alone, he said, spends $23,000 annually for 5 acre-feet of water. The services district also has nonpotable water available for trucking to where it’s needed for landscaping.
In 2001, the district said the moratorium would remain until a water master plan was completed and a new source was on line.
The master plan was completed in 2008, but desalination, the source identified as the preferable option, has been stalled. Attempts to do testing to complete desalination plans have been turned down by the state Coastal Commission as potentially harmful to the environment and public access to the coast.
An Army Corps of Engineers contractor is working on an environmental review of water supply alternatives, including desalination.For now, district directors view reduced water use by the community and the prospect of further conservation as the new water source needed in order to release new meters.
A ‘small stimulus’
Director Muril Clift said the district has rights to more groundwater (810 acre-feet annually) than CCSD customers are using, and that consumption has declined since the previous board declared the water-supply emergency. An acre-foot will meet the annual water needs of five homes in Cambria.
According to the district’s Urban Water Management Plan, CCSD pumped 672 acre-feet in 2010 and 682 acre-feet in 2011. By comparison, it pumped 820 acre-feet in 1988. That plummeted to 555 acre-feet in 1991, the last year of a drought, and climbed up to 798 acre-feet in 2001, the year the moratorium was declared.
Clift suggested taking 60 days to complete a “very specific conservation statement, so we know we can even pull our usage down some more.”
MacKinnon said the release-meters-now plan is not only a good one, but necessary.
He said a “small stimulus, a few meters” could help bring new business — and jobs — into town, replacing those that have gone out of business or shrunk in size.
MacKinnon recommended telling the county that “we have a hurt here. We need to release these meters and we want to do it immediately. If the county says OK, then we’d go immediately to the Coastal Commission, telling them we’d move ahead as quickly as possible with the most aggressive conservation program possible.”
He added: “The release of 10 meters per year would need less than 2 acre-feet (more water) per year, (and) would create a significant number of local area jobs as well as generating added CCSD revenue.”
Connection fees also would need to rise, Clift said, and would include an equity share in the total system, added infrastructure, cost of new connections, the cost of conservation efforts and administrative costs of the program.
“My recommendations could result in a connection fee in the range of $15,000 to $35,000” depending on infrastructure cost, Clift said. The current fee is $3,255. The fee in Templeton, a comparably sized district, is $24,478.
County officials and the California Coastal Commission likely would have to agree to such a plan.
Clift said they haven’t yet selected how many will-serves might be released each year. That number could vary, based perhaps on the amount of water used the previous year.