Arroyo Grande council may extend building ban

Arroyo Grande officials may extend a moratorium on new development projects as they continue to grapple with ways to ease a water shortage.

The City Council on Tuesday will consider extending the ban — which started in November — until July 21.

City staff needs more time to update its water supply needs and research its options for short- and long-term plans to increase the water supply, according to a staff report from City Manager Steve Adams. Sixty-one percent of the city’s water allocation comes from the Lopez Lake reservoir; the rest comes from local aquifers.

Over the past few years, city officials throughout the county have asked their residents to conserve water. In August, Grover Beach residents and business owners were asked to watch their use after two straight years of low rainfall totals; however, the program is voluntary.

Last week, the Paso Robles City Council approved water rate increases to pay for its share of the Nacimiento Water Project. The city in 2004 agreed to pay for its share of the pipeline in a multiparty contract to construct, operate and fund it.

The $176 million Nacimiento pipeline will carry 15,750 acre-feet of water to Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, Atascadero, Templeton and Cayucos.

In February, the Paso Robles council authorized spending $121,000 for new and continued water conservation programs from the city’s water fund reserves to help users cut down and to comply with state mandates. Its conservation measures will be mandatory from May 1 to Oct. 15.

San Luis Obispo, like many other cities, lists conservation tips on its Web site but does not have mandatory water conservation measures in place, city officials there said.

The Grover Beach City Council will likely review in June its water usage and rainfall and then determine whether to increase the level of conservation efforts, City Manager Bob Perrault said.

The city is using about 90 to 92 percent of its water allocation from a combination of Lake Lopez and wells that tap the city’s ground supply.

“We’re continuing to work cooperatively with our neighbors,” Perrault said. “One of the things we all need to do is take a look at developing a long-term solution for water in the South County.”

Arroyo Grande has had mandatory conservation rules since August 2008, after city staff determined the city was using 99 percent of its water entitlements. The measures appear effective — water use has dropped 10 percent in fiscal year 2008-09 compared with the previous year, according to a report Adams gave the council in September.

In January, the city approved a new agreement to purchase water through 2014 from the Oceano Community Services District.

The council has discussed several long-term solutions to find additional water, including a comprehensive groundwater study and further study of two recycled-water projects.

The council in September voted to spend $25,000 for preliminary study of raising the Lopez Lake Dam spillway to increase the reservoir’s capacity. The estimated cost of that project — which could add an additional 2,000 to 5,000 acre-feet of water — is $5 million.

Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.