Looking to further protect the North County’s dwindling groundwater supplies, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday afternoon took its first major step toward pursuing a ban on exporting groundwater out of the county.
The move encompasses all of the 22 basins that underlie the county, such as basins in Nipomo and Los Osos, but is largely focused on how to manage falling aquifer levels and wells going dry over the Paso Robles groundwater basin, which supplies much of the North County’s water.
On Tuesday, the supervisors directed county staff to seek public comment on the issue and bring back a proposed ordinance for the board’s consideration before the end of the year.
Supervisor Debbie Arnold requested that it be back before the board within two months.
“The whole idea behind all this is we need long-term strategies that we currently don’t have,” Supervisor Caren Ray said of protecting the county’s water resources.
The board didn't officially vote on the issue but instead agreed to general terms to move the discussion forward as led by the chairman, Supervisor Bruce Gibson.
The formal ordinance proposal would include specifics on developing a sunset clause, the process of obtaining permits for exportation exceptions and other details, which basins it would include and what the exportation of groundwater means by definition.
The talk comes about a year about after the supervisors passed an emergency ordinance limiting new pumping from the Paso Robles groundwater basin. A bill that would allow the creation of a water district to manage that basin also gained support of the board and is on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk. He has until the end of September to sign the bill into law.
In January, the supervisors asked county staff to look into a ban on exporting groundwater from the basin to address fears by some North County residents that the proposed Paso water district could sell water from the basin to places like Kern County.
Supervisors have repeatedly said there are no plans to export water outside San Luis Obispo County.