City of San Luis Obispo, SLO County working to form groundwater agency

The city of San Luis Obispo and the county are proposing to form a Groundwater Sustainability Agency.
The city of San Luis Obispo and the county are proposing to form a Groundwater Sustainability Agency.

As a way to ensure a dependable supply of groundwater in the future, the city of San Luis Obispo and San Luis Obispo County are moving forward with a plan to form a groundwater sustainability agency by this summer.

The San Luis Obispo City Council voted at its March 7 meeting to create a joint powers agreement that would meet a June 30 deadline set by the state Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which requires stakeholders in basins in overdraft to form groundwater management agencies, or else the state will intervene.

The state’s mandate is meant to address an estimated 1 million to 2 million acre-feet of groundwater statewide that is in overdraft. Six basins in San Luis Obispo County — out of 127 statewide — have been identified by the California Department of Water Resources as high or median priority.

One of those is the San Luis Obispo Valley/Edna Valley Basin.

“Many of these basins are not really regulated throughout the state,” said Aaron Floyd, the city utility department’s deputy director of water. “The state realized there needed to be management to ensure sustainability.”

The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors is expected to consider the joint powers agreement in May.

The county, city and certain agricultural and municipal water agencies all share the San Luis Obispo Valley/Edna Valley Basin. The public agencies are responsible for forming the joint powers agreement, but they also have the authority to include stakeholders such as water companies that draw from the basin, Floyd said.

The joint powers agreement proposes including representatives from different agencies on a five-member board, including the city, county, Public Utilities Commission, agriculture water companies and municipal water companies.

The board will be responsible for conducting studies, regulating extractions and monitoring water levels, capital projects and developing a groundwater sustainability plan by 2022.

Initial costs associated with setting up the groundwater sustainability agency will be $500,000 and shared between the agencies. The city of San Luis Obispo’s share is about $150,000, as part of the proposed agreement, and the council authorized up to $200,000 on March 7.

The city of San Luis Obispo relies on water from Lake Nacimiento as well as Whale Rock and Salinas reservoirs for its potable water, but groundwater is available as a backup.