We’re probably in for another water fight. Last Thursday, our San Luis Obispo Local Agency Formation Commission voted 6-1 to OK an election on forming a Paso Robles Groundwater Basin District. It would have a nine-member, elected board of directors and would manage the shrinking underground basin.
And last Saturday in the parking lot of the Paso Robles Walmart, I saw a car sporting a new-looking bumper sticker that said, “No District.” It didn’t say “Basin District” or “Groundwater District,” but I strongly suspect that’s what it meant.
And it wasn’t on the car’s bumper. It was slapped on diagonally nearer the window. But I’m not criticizing its placement. I’m not sure cars even have bumpers anymore. Maybe that part of the car body is now just trim. I’ve seen a couple of bumped “bumpers” that looked like plastic.
But, to get back to the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin District, our county supervisors will vote Nov. 10 on scheduling the election. To be eligible to vote, you must live in the proposed district or own land there.
There could be 6,397 voters, according to last Friday’s Tribune. I’m not one of them. I do live in the groundwater basin area, but I’m within the city of Paso Robles, which already manages our water and raises our water bills. So far, we haven’t run out of water. Paso Robles does have other water sources.
Many of the people opposed to forming the groundwater district seem to be already organized. Some arguments I’ve heard against the district include: It would be another layer of government that will regulate them. It would charge them new taxes. It would keep them from pumping as much water as they believe they need.
The arguments in favor of forming the district include: Water levels in the basin are steadily dropping. More water is being pumped out than nature can put back. The basin needs to be managed, and who better to manage it than an independent local district whose board is elected by basin residents or landowners?
I should add that the California Department of Water Resources website says, “Groundwater management is no longer optional in priority groundwater basins and is required to be implemented.”
California has 515 groundwater basins. The Paso Robles Area Groundwater Basin is number 14 on the list of high-priority basins. And a draft list of “critically overdrafted” basins came out last month that listed the Paso Robles basin as No. 4.
So what happens if the basin’s voters reject the proposed local management district? It seems likely that some higher level of government will step in and manage the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin, whether we like it or not. It must be managed.