The Cambrian

How much did this week's rains affect the drought?

Ray Dienzo of San Luis Obispo County Public Works, left, and PG&E meteorologist John Lindsey look over the Rocky Butte rain gauge on a recent afternoon.
Ray Dienzo of San Luis Obispo County Public Works, left, and PG&E meteorologist John Lindsey look over the Rocky Butte rain gauge on a recent afternoon. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

The so-called “storm door” may have finally opened a smidge on the North Coast. However, water-watchers say that doesn’t necessarily mean drought conditions are gone yet or that municipal water supplies will be plentiful this summer and fall.

In fact, Jerry Gruber, general manager of the Cambria Community Services District, said in an email interview Tuesday, March 6, that he anticipates the district will indeed start up its sustainable water facility this year, “especially based on the low amount of rain we have received,” even with more rain predicted in the next couple of weeks.

Gruber said he plans to give a detailed update on the facility at the district board’s March 22 meeting.

The plant treats and filters a blend of fresh, salt and previously treated wastewater. Turning on the facility adds costs to every ratepayer’s bill.

Water that comes out of the plant is put back into the San Simeon Creek aquifer, one of two sources from which the district draws water for the community.

The average water-level reading Feb. 26 for the district’s three production wells on San Simeon Creek was 13.96 feet. The wells are considered full at 20 feet or so. The district also draws water from wells on Santa Rosa Creek.

According to PG&E meteorologist John Lindsey, Rocky Butte (northeast of San Simeon) was doused with 6.4 inches of rain between March 1 and March 4, while the SLOCountyWater.org gauge in Cambria accumulated 2.04 inches of precipitation during the same period. CCSD’s wastewater treatment plant’s gauge tallied 1.7 inches then, for a rather sparse total of 5.97 inches so far for the 2017-18 rain season.

During the storm, brisk winds ripped branches from some trees, but no major related problems were reported to Cambria Fire Department.

Recent rains helped some, locals say. But still, “the creek at the bridge above us doesn’t have much more water now than it did before the 6 or 8 inches of rain” that fell on the area recently, according to longtime San Simeon Creek Road resident Bill Bianchi. The soil physicist is a retired groundwater recharge consultant who specialized in soil-moisture flow and recharge.

Even with the heavy rains in the 2016-17 rain season, the hills were not totally saturated, according to Bianchi: “Water storage in the San Simeon Creek basin has not been fully replenished by the rain we’ve had in the last two years.”

The replenishment is important, he said, because it “determines the base flow of the creek and the recharge of an aquifer from which Cambrians obtain their water.”

The state’s drought monitor website at http://bit.ly/2G1B5qD seems to validate that. Even with 2.78 inches of rain in the previous week in the 93428 area code, the site’s stats showed Tuesday, March 6, that 9.81 more inches would be needed to end the current drought in one month, and the area is in an “abnormally dry” condition.

On Tuesday, Lindsey was predicting more rain in the coming week or so. And https://weather.com was calling for rain or showers throughout most days from March 9 to 18.

Cloud seeding

Mother Nature may provide (or not provide) the rainfall that the Central Coast needs for healthy forests, green hills, fire protection and plenty of drinkable water.

But sometimes, mankind can nudge the provider a bit.

San Luis Obispo County is considering a program of winter cloud seeding, which could provide more rainfall in targeted areas, such as Lopez Lake and Salinas Reservoir.

The public can comment on the project’s environmental document through 5 p.m. March 20. Mail comments to Keith Miller, County Government Center, Room 206, San Luis Obispo CA 93408 or email them to klmiller@co.slo.ca.us.

The document estimates that “precipitation increases would be between 9 and 17 percent in those watersheds.

Find details and the documents at www.slocounty.ca.gov/winter-cloud-seeding.

County supervisors are to hold a hearing on the final document June 19.

Rainfall totals

Rainfall totals in SLO County from March 1-4, in inches



Arroyo Grande (SLOCountyWater.org)

0.91

Atascadero (SLOCountyWater.org)

1.28

Avila Valley (PG&E Energy Education Center)

0.72

Avila Beach, San Luis Bay Estates

1.00

Baywood Park

1.12

Cal Poly

1.63

Cambria (SLOCountyWater.org)

2.04

Camp San Luis

1.56

Creston Elementary School

1.07

Creston at Humbug Vineyards

1.16

Davis Peak (SLOCountyWater.org)

1.24

Diablo Canyon

0.99

Hog Canyon (SLOCountyWater.org)

1.08

Islay Hill

1.00

Lopez Dam (SLOCountyWater.org)

1.34

Lopez Recreation Area (SLOCountyWater.org)

1.34

Los Osos at Cottontail Lane

1.43

Los Osos (SLOCountyWater.org)

1.24

Mission Prep

1.26

Morro Bay

0.60

Morro Bay (North Cloisters)

0.67

Nipomo, East

0.88

Nipomo, South

0.76

Nipomo, Clamshell Mountain

1.49

Oceano (SLOCountyWater.org)

0.68

Paso Robles Municipal Airport

1.43

Paso Robles, Union Road & Riverglen Drive

1.82

Hwy. 41 and Toro Creek Road

2.05

Prefumo Canyon, San Luis Obispo

3.24

Rocky Butte

6.40

Santa Maria Public Airport

0.44

Santa Margarita

2.24

San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport

0.76

San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden

0.96

San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau

1.09

San Simeon

1.68

See Canyon at Creekside Farms

1.17

Shandon

0.64

Templeton

2.00

Vandenberg Air Force Base

0.25

Source: John Lindsey, PG&E

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