Like the Paso Robles groundwater basin, the Nipomo underground aquifer has seen precipitous declines in recent years, and some farms and residences are beginning to feel the pinch.
At its past two meetings — one Wednesday and the other Aug. 14 — the Nipomo Community Services District denied requests for emergency water from a farmer and homeowner outside the district whose wells are going dry.
District employees also recently caught a resident illegally filling a truck with water from a district hydrant. The incident was reported to the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office, said Michael LeBrun, district general manager.
“It’s a further indication that folks are getting desperate,” he said.
The groundwater aquifer beneath Nipomo has been classified as being in decline since 2007. The Paso Robles and Los Osos basins are also in decline, and Cambria also has chronic water shortages.
Drought conditions this year significantly worsened the Nipomo groundwater crisis, LeBrun said. Aquifer levels were 30 percent lower this spring than last spring and are the lowest they have been since recordkeeping began in 1975. At Wednesday’s meeting, the board denied a request for emergency water from Ramco Enterprises, a company that grows strawberries on 80 acres adjacent to the district. The directors were sympathetic to the plight of the farm, but district policy only allows emergency sales of water outside the district to residences.
“You really hate to see anyone in a hardship situation, but we have no excess capacity,” Director Dan Gaddis said.
At its Aug. 14 meeting, the board denied a request for water from a residence outside the district. District policy allows for emergency water sales to residences outside district boundaries, but only on a temporary basis . The homeowners were denied because they wanted a long-term hookup to the district’s water system, LeBrun said.
Mike Winn, a former CSD director, urged the board to be very careful about emergency water requests. The district’s water crisis is so severe that rationing will likely be necessary if drought conditions persist, meaning golf courses and school lawns could start turning brown.
Formed in 1965, the Nipomo CSD serves 4,000 water customers and 2,500 sewer customers. The district is constructing a supplemental water pipeline to Santa Maria that is expected to be complete late in 2014.
Last year, voters turned down $26 million in property taxes to pay for the pipeline, but the district is going ahead with the project in phases.