San Luis Obispo County supervisors Tuesday approved a long-term strategy for managing five troubled groundwater basins in the county.
The strategy is part of the county’s efforts to comply with a new state law requiring that groundwater basins be sustainably managed. The county has five basins that require increased management under the state’s new Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, often referred to as the Pavley-Dickinson bill.
The state has singled out the Paso Robles, Santa Maria, Los Osos, Edna Valley and Cuyama Valley basins for management. All are considered to be overpumped and have been given high to medium priority by the state Department of Water Resources.
With the board’s action on Tuesday, the county Public Works Department can now begin a multi-year effort to work with other agencies in preparing groundwater management plans. Implementing the new law could cost the county as much as $250,000 a year through 2022.
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The new law requires that agencies to manage these basins be identified by June 2017. The Board of Supervisors, cities, community services districts and other entities are eligible to be designated groundwater sustainability agencies under the new law.
The law also requires that these agencies adopt groundwater sustainability plans by 2022. These sustainability plans will be designed to prevent over pumping, saltwater intrusion and other water-quality problems. The five basins must attain sustainability by 2042.
In order to accomplish this, the new law gives water agencies the authority to use enhanced management tools such as metering of groundwater pumps and instituting pumping fees and extraction limits, said Mark Hutchinson, deputy county public works director.
Some groups that use groundwater called on the county to hold a summit of all the different potential management agencies so that efforts can be coordinated.
“What we really need at this point is some extensive stakeholder outreach,” said Joy Fitzhugh of the county Farm Bureau. “I hope the county will allocate enough resources for this.”