This is just food for thought and by no means am I an expert on the water situation here on the California Central Coast … just someone who makes extremely unique wine barrels but now finds himself as a concerned citizen who would like to see all the information laid out on the table.
As almost any Californian can tell you, we are in a severe drought. In a two-year period in Paso Robles, we’ve had about five inches of rain and over the last year, it’s less than two inches. Heck, the way the news talks about it nationally, I’d be surprised if not most of the country and even the world knows we have had a lack of rain in the Golden State for the past couple of years.
This is of a major concern for the folks in the North County area of San Luis Obispo County, sometimes generalized as Paso Robles. Recently named the world’s ‘Wine Region of the Year‘, Paso Robles – or Paso for short – vineyards have become serious business here in wine country. However, like any other farmed product, grapevines need water.
Unilateral emergency dictates
With a sudden sense of urgency, near the end of last summer, the San Luis Obispo County Supervisors voted autonomously for what was essentially a two-year emergency moratorium on new vines being planted, which some feel was warranted. Technically, a grape-grower can plant new vines but there’s a ’1-to-1′ ruling that states a new vine can only be planted for every one that is taken out of the ground.
Now there’s good news in that the value of property will go up because if anyone wants to expand, they will have to buy someone else out. I’m sure those who are in the real estate business are happy as well as those land owners who want out. Still, it affects the industry negatively due to the fact nobody can expand, in-turn stifling business in what was the ever-growing Paso viticultural business.
All of this created by the lack of water – or at least the supposed lack of water. See, the Paso Robles water basin is the largest natural underground aquifer west of the Rockies. Yes, we are in a drought and we just came out of another drought just a handful of years ago. The underground reserves are down which might be of some concern. However, why is the county trying to set up a water district with an idea being that they would be a water bank for outside water agencies?
As a citizen who figures that sooner or later the city and county will be restricting our water usage to conserve water so that we don’t run out, will we be selling that same water to other districts desperate for water? There is seemingly a detachment from logic that says if indeed San Luis Obispo County is in need of restricting citizens water usage so that we don’t run out, that we can’t turn around and sell what extra water we do have to some other place in the state. Unless of course, Paso has more water than the political lords are willing to let on.
Again, I’m ready for conservation modes and in fact we already have certain restrictions on water use in the city of Paso Robles that says we can only water three times a week and other relatively common sense approaches to water usage like not letting a hose run without a shutoff nozzle.
The title question of the story: Is there a water shortage in Paso Robles? – Isn’t being directly answered.
Already the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors is undermining land rights by infringing on a property owners’ rights to his or her own water. Further, the city of Paso Robles has stopped any new drilling for water within city limits, even though the land owners have a right to the water below them. Some have fought back and you can go here for more on that (or an additional source: Cal Coast News).
How this turns out, I don’t particularly know but at the very least, more information should be made public – yet that doesn’t appear to be the case. Something else to consider is who’s to profit from selling our underground water if indeed it is sold to outsiders? Are some of the power brokers in the county vying for a huge payoff at the expense of local citizens? There are extremely desperate communities in need of water during this drought (see San Jose Mercury News) and they might go to any length to get it.
This doesn’t feel right. In a day and age when there’s little or no transparency within federal, state and now local governments, just exactly what is our water situation? I would hope more citizens start clamoring for additional information on just what is happening behind closed doors along with what subversive politicking might be going on. Even then, we may not be getting the truth … but the truth is what we need to pursue. Is there a water shortage in Paso Robles?
What do you think?