Water & Drought

Nipomo CSD to mull stage 4 water-shortage declaration

Several homes in Nipomo have let their lawns go brown amid the drought like these from July 2015 at the intersection of Tanis Pl. and Elvira Way.
Several homes in Nipomo have let their lawns go brown amid the drought like these from July 2015 at the intersection of Tanis Pl. and Elvira Way. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

The Nipomo Community Services District will soon consider whether to declare the second-highest level of water-shortage conditions, although residents probably won’t face any new water restrictions immediately because the district is already on track to cut water use by the amount the stage would require.

If the district doesn’t manage to meet its goal over the next year, however, the stricter restrictions could quickly be put into place, general manager Mario Iglesias said.

Last week, the district’s board of directors ordered its staff to draft a resolution declaring a stage 4 water shortage, but the board asked that it retain stage 3 water restrictions. The board is scheduled to consider the resolution at its July 27 meeting.

Stage 3 restrictions prohibit using water outside to wash cars or vehicles, to fill pools or spas and for dust control or construction. It also limits the amount that can be used in municipal irrigation. Stage 3 also prohibits new applications for water service, though existing applications will be processed.

Stage 4 keeps all of those restrictions, but it also prohibits any municipal irrigation and suspends even pending applications for water service. It also requires groundwater pumping to be cut 50 percent, up from 30 percent in stage 3.

Iglesias said the district is already close to meeting the stage 4 goal of reducing groundwater pumping by 50 percent, and he felt that implementing stage 4 restrictions would hinder, more than help, conservation efforts.

“The community has done a fantastic job in saving water,” Iglesias said. “If the community is reaching this level already, or if there is a plan that demonstrates we can reach the plan with current efforts, there is little to no need for the board to take further actions.”

1,267 acre-feetThe maximum amount of water the NCSD can pump in this next year, while meeting its 50 percent groundwater pumping goal.

The district’s decision to declare a stage 4 shortage follows suit with the Nipomo Mesa Management Area Technical Group, which declared its own stage 4 water-shortage condition in June because of two years of consecutive severe water-shortage conditions.

The NMMA is a court-appointed governing body that manages Nipomo’s adjudicated portion of the Santa Maria Groundwater Basin. It consists of the NCSD, as well as Golden State Water Co. and Woodlands Mutual Water Co.

Though the district could have chosen not to declare the next stage of water emergency, it would have technically still been in stage 4, because it is subject to oversight by the NMMA.

With the declaration, the NMMA’s participating agencies are required to reduce their groundwater pumping by 50 percent from the base year amount, which is actually an average of pumping between 2009 and 2013.

This translates to the district reducing groundwater pumping from 2,533 acre-feet a year to 1,267 acre-feet. (An acre-foot of water is equal to about 325,851 gallons, or enough to generally supply three homes in a year.)

Because of the new water piping into the district from the Nipomo Supplemental Water Project, the NCSD pumped about 1,380 acre-feet between July 2015 and June 2016 (the “water year”) — just 113 acre-feet short of the 50 percent reduction goal — and next year that amount is expected to go down even more as the district adds about 103 acre-feet of supplemental water.

If all of the current conservation stays the same, the district would be on track to be only a few acre-feet short of its goal, or “as close to on target as a reasonable person can expect an agency to plan for,” Iglesias said.

Kaytlyn Leslie: 805-781-7928, @kaytyleslie