Keep those buckets handy: Cambria ratepayers still cannot use water from the tap to irrigate plants or for other outdoor applications.
Restrictions will remain the same for now on ratepayers’ use of water provided by the Cambria Community Services District, including a clause that prohibits most outdoor uses, such as irrigation of landscaping and plants.
CCSD’s Board of Directors debated for about 45 minutes on Jan. 29 whether to tweak the outdoor restriction to allow ratepayers who kept their use within their official bimonthly allocation, and whose bills were paid on time, to use some of their water outdoors if they wish.
But directors voted 4-1 to not approve Director Jim Bahringer’s motion to allow ratepayers a bit more freedom in deciding how to use their own allocated water.
Why? The district is seeking a permanent permit to operate the new $9 million emergency water-supply project. It’s operating now under an emergency permit and is undergoing a three-month test to make sure everything’s working properly, provide data for the permit application and so district staff can learn how to run, maintain and fix the equipment.
“It would be a real pity,” said community member Elizabeth Bettenhausen, if “we would start weakening our conservation program now. The real challenge is to live up to our new state image as the place in California that conserves the most … water.”
Board President Gail Robinette said any change to CCSD’s water-use restrictions also might send the wrong message to the regulatory agencies that will have to approve the permit. “I think we should stand by what we’ve done.”
Director Amanda Rice said she’d rather not lift the restriction “and then have to put it back on again in May” if there’s not been enough rainfall to end the drought.
There was decent precipitation in December, and CCSD’s aquifers and wells are essentially full for the moment. But January was a much drier month. Yes, rain is predicted, starting perhaps as early as tonight (Thursday, Feb. 5), which could be the start of a new, rainier trend or just a fluke with more dry weeks or months ahead.
Director Muril Clift said the district’s San Simeon Creek aquifer “will show full for the next three months, whether it rains or not, because we’re running the (emergency water supply project) plant” during the test period. If that were not the case, well “levels would be beginning to drop” already.
The board also decided to not to charge ratepayers extra for operating the new plant during its three-month test period.