Over the Hill

Vote ‘yes’ on water rate increase

Last week’s big rain reminded me that Nacimiento Lake is one of the Central Coast’s most productive water traps. In one day its level rose 19 feet.

The volume of water in Nacimiento Lake almost doubled. On the day before the storm, it contained just 35,500 acre-feet. On the day after the storm, it contained 67,000 acre-feet. (An acre-foot is almost 326,000 gallons.)

During the next two days the lake rose 2 more feet. Water kept flowing in from the Nacimiento drainage basin. By then the lake contained more than 73,000 acre-feet and was still topping off.

How much water is 73,000 acre-feet? Picture three Santa Margarita Lakes, each brim-full. The three wouldn’t quite contain 72,000 acre-feet.

But when Nacimiento Lake holds 73,000 acre-feet, it’s only 19 percent full. Its total capacity is 377,900 acre-feet. And it has actually overflowed a few times since the dam was built in 1957.

Paso Robles did the right thing when it signed up for the rights to 4,000 acre-feet per year of Nacimiento water. Yes, it may look expensive today, but after a few more years of global warming we’ll see it was a real bargain. So I urge my fellow Roblans to go to the polls Nov. 3 and vote “Yes” on the water rate increase.

We may disagree about the cause of global warming, but all those pictures of shrinking glaciers and melting polar ice caps show it has already started.

California already doesn’t have enough water. Some Central Valley farmers had their irrigation allotments cut by 90 percent. Federal and state water projects can’t fulfill their commitments. Nearly half a million Central Valley farming acres have been left unplanted.

Back in 1959 San Luis Obispo County secured the rights to 17,500 acre-feet of Nacimiento water per year. It was part of a settlement of a water rights dispute with Monterey County. Although Nacimiento Lake is within our county, Monterey County owns it.

San Luis Obispo County taxpayers have laid out millions of dollars in annual payments to own that water. But we could never agree on how to deliver it. Finally in 2007, five communities agreed to share a large portion of it and to build a pipeline to deliver it.

As a Roblan, I’m relieved that my city is one of the Nacimiento pipeline partners. Our frequent droughts can deplete our city wells. The nearby, ever-increasing, agricultural pumping may deprive our wells, but Nacimiento Lake will always harvest the moisture that blows in off the Pacific.

So on Nov. 3, I’ll vote “yes” on water rates.

Contact Phil Dirkx at phild2008@sbcglobal.net or at 238-2372.