Editorial: Nacimiento project long in the making

There was no public ceremony marking the event, but it was nonetheless a historic occasion when the city of San Luis Obispo began piping Nacimiento water to city residents earlier this month.How big a milestone was it?

Consider: Nacimiento was the first major new source of water to come on line in San Luis Obispo in 50 years.

From a countywide perspective, the 45-mile, $176 million pipeline was the single largest public works effort in county history. It was the culmination of more than 30 years of planning and a sizeable investment — $176 million — on the part of local agencies and ratepayers.

We believe it was well worth it.

Many California communities are struggling to find new sources of water, and the situation is expected to worsen as global warming leads to more severe drought conditions.

The communities participating in the Nacimiento Water Project — San Luis Obispo, Atascadero, Paso Robles, Templeton and Cayucos — showed tremendous foresight in providing a water “insurance policy” not only for current residents, but also for future generations.

There is one bit of unfinished business: Paso Robles has yet to lock down a way to pay for its share of the project. The city has attempted numerous times to pass water rate increases to cover its share of pipeline costs, as well as to fund a water treatment plant. However, a minority of residents has blocked those efforts through rate protests and lawsuits.

We hate to see Paso Robles residents denied the benefits of the Nacimiento Water Project — especially since water customers already have been paying some fees earmarked for the project.

Also, it’s clear that Paso Robles needs more water: This summer, the city will almost certainly impose restrictions, once again, on watering lawns, washing cars, hosing down driveways, etc.

To be clear, we agree that reasonable water conservation measures are a good thing. But we firmly believe that residents of every community deserve the assurance that there will be enough water available for cooking, cleaning, flushing toilets, washing clothes and watering plants, even in drought conditions.

We also want local decision-makers to have the ability to approve projects that are good for their communities — and not have their hands tied by building restrictions imposed due to lack of water.

The Nacimiento Water Project ensures that participating communities will be able to deliver reliable water supplies to their residents now and for the foreseeable future.

That’s a huge accomplishment, and we commend city and county officials who stuck with the project for so many years.

We strongly urge residents of Paso Robles to tap into this valuable resource by supporting city efforts to finance the project.