On September 25, 2012, the Board of Supervisors adopted the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin water conservation ordinance. The Ordinance will require large land uses to offset new water use, prohibit the creation of new parcels in the basin and require changes to the County General Plan to be water neutral. The Ordinance will not affect:
- the cities of Paso Robles and Atascadero or the towns of Templeton, San Miguel or Shandon
- the drilling of wells
- the building of single family home
Please contact James Caruso, Project Manager, at (805) 781-5702 for additional information.
On July 26, 2012, the Planning Commission recommended a draft water conservation ordinance to the Board of Supervisors. The Commission held an extensive discussion of the issues and listened to the public testimony. The Commission's recommendation to the Board includes changes to the original draft ordinance. Those changes are found here and appear as underline and bold.
The Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing to consider the Planning Commission recommended draft ordinance on September 25, 2012 (all hearings are noticed for 9:00 a.m. Please check the Board of Supervisor's web page for placement of this item on the agenda). You may also contact James Caruso, Project Manager, at (805) 781-5702 for information on groundwater issues in North County.
Garden Soft Program News
The County is pleased to join the cities and communities in establishing a GardenSoft program for the county. GardenSoft.com is a web site that features a variety of plant choices and irrigation and maintenance practices that are appropriate for different areas of the county. This website will be invaluable to North County residents as they consider switching to more water-efficient landscaping. Go to GardenSoft.com for great water wise planting ideas for designed for our area.
Water Conservation Ordinances
As directed by the Board of Supervisors, a special water conservation ordinance is being prepared for the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin rural area. A draft of the ordinance is available now.
Paso Robles Groundwater Basin Resource Capacity Study
The Paso Robles Groundwater Basin Resource Capacity Study contains recommended actions that must be implemented through county ordinances and policies. Two public meetings were held in June 2011 in Creston and Paso Robles. At those public meetings, County staff stated that prior to writing actual ordinances and policies, an interim step would be taken that outlines general ways to implement these RCS recommended actions. Please read through the program outline and send any comments or recommendations to James Caruso by September 30, 2011. We have also provided the Interim Water Guidelines mentioned in Item 8 and the Winery Best Management Practices mentioned in item 6 of the attached Program outline.
Read the Groundwater Basin Newsletter which was delivered to over 6000 addresses in North County. It contains information about the groundwater basin condition, water conservation and next steps.
The Paso Robles groundwater basin (the basin) is presently the primary water source for the North County. Communities from Garden Farms to San Miguel and Templeton to Shandon and Creston rely on the basin’s groundwater. Rural residences, urban development, vineyards and other agricultural uses, and wineries all pump water from the underground basin to use for drinking, landscape and agricultural irrigation and to meet the day-to-day requirements of living in an arid environment.
The basin is large--approximately 505,000 acres (790 square miles). There is a long and narrow finger of the basin called the Atascadero sub-basin . It has a different geology and so is looked at separately from the rest of the larger basin. The sub-basin includes the Salinas River corridor area south of Paso Robles and the communities of Atascadero, Templeton and a portion of the City of Paso Robles’ water supply. Groundwater levels in many parts of the basin have declined over the last 12 years.
Looking at the basin map you can also see boundary lines of sub-areas . These sub- areas are used to break up the basin into smaller-sized areas. The idea of sub-areas is to make it easier to identify problem areas. The Groundwater Management Plan for the basin (see section below) uses these sub-areas for water planning purposes.
The County Board of Supervisors has spent several years studying the basin hydrogeology and the demand and supply of the basin’s groundwater. In February 2011, the Board of Supervisors approved The Paso Robles Groundwater Basin Resource Capacity Study (RCS). It links the state of the basin to land use policy, basin monitoring and water conservation. The RCS concludes that the groundwater basin is approaching or has reached its “ perennial yield.” The perennial yield of a groundwater basin is defined as:
The amount of usable water of a groundwater basin that can be withdrawn and consumed economically each year for an indefinite period of time .
The RCS established a ‘level of severity” for the groundwater basin. There are three severity levels for resources from level I to level III. The Board established a level of severity III for the main basin and a level of severity I for the Atascadero sub basin.
California law does not allow the County to limit how much water a property owner pumps from the ground. The County must use only the authority it has to address this issue. The RCS recommended groundwater monitoring, water conservation and land use measures to address groundwater demand. The Board of Supervisors adopted the following recommended actions from the RCS:
Monitoring and Conservation Actions
- Initiate the development of a groundwater monitoring program.
- Continue studies of the groundwater basin and stakeholder coordination efforts.
- Develop and implement, in collaboration with other water purveyors within the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin and the Atascadero Sub-basin, a water conservation outreach and education program for the rural area.
- Continue to conduct biannual groundwater measurements.
- Amend Title 8 in accordance with the recommendations in the Resource Management System Annual Summary Report.
- Require that the new wells be a part of the District groundwater level measuring program if needed.
Land Use Measures Actions
- Require new discretionary development that does not use supplemental water to use the California Urban Water Conservation Council’s (CUWCC) best management practices for water conservation and offset 100 percent of its new water use with non-agricultural water.
- In rural areas of the basin, do not approve General Plan amendments that result in a net increase in the non-agricultural use of groundwater;
- Prohibit new land divisions in the rural areas of the basin.
- All discretionary development shall offset its water use with non- agricultural water, except that proposed Agricultural Processing uses (as defined in the Land Use Ordinance), including outdoor and other appurtenant water use, shall be subject to project- specific land use and/or water conservation mitigation measures required by the review authority based on environmental review.
- New wineries shall use best management practices consistent with the Best Management Practices.
- Revise the Growth Management Ordinance and the Resource Management System to substantially limit yearly non-agricultural development in the rural areas of the basin.
- Develop a landscape ordinance that will limit the amount of turf and other high-water use features on all parcels within the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin, Including the Atascadero Sub-basin.
- Work with stakeholders to develop best management practices for prevalent land uses in the basin similar to the winery BMP.
Visit www.slocountywater.org for more information on the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin.
If you have questions about this information please contact James Caruso of the County Department of Planning and Building.