Facing a fourth year of exceptional drought, county supervisors Tuesday will hold another in a series of hearings to discuss how the county can reverse the crisis of groundwater aquifers being over pumped.
County planners are developing a countywide water conservation ordinance. An environmental analysis covering many of the aspects of the new law is expected in February, county planner Xzandrea Fowler wrote in a staff report.
The new law is intended to stop over pumping in threatened water basins while allowing for new crop plantings and development as long as it is offset by an equal amount of conservation and avoids waste.
Supervisors will consider whether to make any changes to the ordinance on Tuesday.
Three basins — Paso Robles, Nipomo Mesa and Los Osos — suffer from demand on the aquifer exceeding the dependable water supply, according to the county.
State water officials also have identified the Edna Valley and Cuyama Valley aquifers as threatened. A new state law requires that agencies must be established by mid 2017 to manage these basins and adopt sustainable management plans by 2022.
Until now, most of the county’s water management activities have focused on the Paso Robles basin. A recent hydrological study showed that water levels in the basin have fallen 70 feet since 1981 and are expected to drop another 70 feet by 2040.
Supervisors passed an emergency ordinance that prohibited new pumping from the basin unless it was offset by an equal amount of conservation. However, that ordinance will expire at the end of August.
A key feature of the county’s water conservation program is to replace the emergency ordinance with a permanent one, Fowler wrote. This so-called water neutrality program would be extended to the Los Osos and Nipomo Mesa basins.
The program could go before the county Planning Commission in May and to the Board of Supervisors in June.