Several South County communities will have access to surplus water from Lopez Lake for the first time in eight years.
The county Board of Supervisors recently declared a surplus of 805 acre-feet from a previous year, allowing the communities of Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, Pismo Beach, Oceano and some Avila Beach residents to buy additional water for the water year starting April 1 and ending March 31, 2012.
Surplus water is calculated at the end of each water year and normally can be purchased by the participating agencies in the following water year.
A question about surplus water had surfaced at a Zone 3 Advisory Committee meeting, which covers the communities that contract with the county for Lopez Lake water, said county Hydraulic Operations Administrator Doug Bird.
County staff ran the numbers and found that a surplus existed for the 2009-10 water year, he said.
The water will be credited to the 2010-11 water year, giving the Zone 3 communities a surplus of water for the 2011-12 year. Additional water may be available as the county calculates any surplus water from the 2010-11 year.
Now, the communities can purchase surplus water at $50 an acre-foot to augment their normal water supply from Lopez. An acre-foot generally serves two to five households per year, depending on landscaping, location and family size. The communities currently pay from $1,432 to $1,802 an acre-foot for water, Bird said.
The cities’ and communities’ shares of surplus water will be based on how much water they currently receive from Lopez. Arroyo Grande receives about half of the 4,530 acre-feet allocated to the Zone 3 communities. Pismo Beach receives 896 acre-feet, Grover Beach gets 800 acre-feet, Oceano has 303 acre-feet and the Avila Beach area receives 241 acre-feet.
Pismo Beach and Oceano also have access to state water, while Arroyo Grande and Grover Beach do not.
Arroyo Grande City Manager Steve Adams said the city could use the surplus water to reduce its usage of groundwater supplies and would allow it to carry over water from its regular allocation and reserve the water for emergency uses.
In the past two to three years, the city was using 99 percent of its water allocation, but reduced its use to 78 percent in 2010 through conservation efforts and increased rainfall.
The calculation of a surplus for Lopez Lake water has not happened in the past few years, for several reasons, Bird said: The county’s Flood Control and Water Conservation District has been releasing additional water downstream as it prepares a habitat conservation plan, and it also needed to lower the lake level during a seismic retrofit of the dam.