Postponing basin control

California’s state government has suggested this: enact a water district that can control, maintain, and bill customers for their water use. An estimated 6,000 North County voters rejected the current proposal on March 8, 2016.

78 percent of landowners voted against the parcel tax that would have generated nearly one million dollars each year, for five years, to pay for the management of the basin, and 74 percent, a majority of landowners, have voted against the measure to enact the district itself.

A water district would have provided a committee of local, interested people to “directly manage the resource locally,” in the face of the fact that the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin has “declined over the last several years,” according to the PR Agriculture Alliance for Groundwater Solutions. Specifically, a plan would have been worked out to bill largest consumers, including farmers, landowners and grape growers, to bear their consumption of the shared Basin, which provides water to the city and outlying areas.

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Riley Coelho, 10

“My parents say that the water district is going to regulate water for everyone. And so, they’re going to restrict our water use, and my family depends on our well water for our farm. We dry farm watermelons and we sell them, and we really depend on the water that we need to grow them. If they restrict our water, we won’t have the water we need,” said sophomore Riley Coelho.

Coelho and her family live on 22 acres of property and share a common apprehension to the district, like most landowners.

“The large landowners really depend more on that water, too. They need more water than we do, because they’re growing all the produce. So it probably would push us out a little bit, but they do need the water more because they are growing the food that’s being put in our stores,” Coelho said.

Earth Science teacher David Boicourt expressed surprise at the simplification that the defeated water district had designed. “It surprised me that the Atascadero part of the aquifer was also going to be under management of the district,” Boicourt said. “That surprised me because they’re geologically separate, so they’re like separate tanks of water.”

He explained that the basins constitute different sources, in different cities, and the Atascadero water basin is in much better shape.

The state water drought, however, has not been eradicated and water districting may loom again to address the problems that the drought has inflicted on the county. All 12,740 acres within city limits have been pushing for a sustainable water supply, which require solutions to the increasing demands that private wells place on the supply. Two past developments may help: a $49 million wastewater treatment plant upgrade will produce recycled water and a $69 million investment in the Nacimiento Water Project should redirect water. City residents and businesses have saved about 479 million gallons of water, which is equal to 1,470 acre feet, since the Governor’s drought proclamation last year.

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