Category Archives: Water

Water issues both in Paso and beyond

Rain Bearrel

Yes, I do know how to spell. Bear with me – pun fun intended.

You purchase a half barrel and maybe place a liner inside to catch rain water. That’s one way to do it although anytime you leave an open container out, especially as big as a half barrel, varmints like mosquitoes tend to breed. Then there are bigger intruders – like bears.



Maybe you saw this story a few years back when it came out in Colorado. The homeowner had half barrels with liners to fetch rain water for his garden. Problem was something was emptying his barrels. That something was a bear – maybe a black bear … and it was caught on camera.

The owner was mystified and set up cameras to catch the perpetrator, which happened to be the aforementioned bear, who would cool its tush off by sitting in the barrel … a bear in a barrel, so-to-speak.

We’ve talked about rain barrels in the past and you can go here for some valuable information but this story brings up the issues of pest. Whenever dealing with something outside and exposed to the elements, some care and caution should be taken.


Mosquitoes are a real problem with water and if you don’t have an enclosed system, you might have to add a horticultural spray oil as one idea. Also, kerosene or mineral oil can work as well. Chlorine does a good job as well but then again, you have to be careful since you’re going to use this same water for your garden.

For bears, there’s really no deterrent for a huge animal like a bear except to have a full barrel and preferably an enclosed system – simple as that.


The bear from these pics was likely trying to cool down. Unless water is scarce or it’s summer, bears won’t be this bold. However, it makes for some great fun. The one shot (at right) with the bear sitting there with its feet up is cool. I mean really, you expect them to bear the heat? 😉


Daryle W. Hier


Food And Water VS Big Gov


Don’t want to be too technical, so in a nutshell, here is what we have as far as our water problems in California. Government forces including power brokers in politics as well as food and water consortiums have combined to wrest Californians of their ability to eat and drink, using heavy regulations and making life more expensive.California Water

This is a personal conclusion and essentially an opinion – so take it as you will. However, I’ve been following the socalled ‘water crisis’ in California for some time and you’ve probably noticed (see at bottom), I’ve blogged about the situation and other ancillary issues related to water, drought, vineyards, conserving rainwater, etc.

To again, keep this brief, here’s what I’ve concluded. And note, my opinions may change as more information comes out, but here’s how I see the water farming problem in California.

It’s man-made

I’ve touched on this before but as I’ve read more and more, it has become obvious that the powers-that-be, have no intention on making life better for farmers or Californians as a whole. Politics has a place in this, but since I am independent from the major parties, I feel at least partially unbiased on how I position my thought process.

One big reason I don’t believe anyone in government has the folks best interest at heart is the fact that we could simply build more reservoirs and desalination plants. We could have more water than we would ever need … but what good does that do politicians and power brokers? It doesn’t.

Simple fix

So there’s fear-mongering in boatloads and the current drought is an excellent and ideal circumstance to proliferate fear in the public. If they came out and said, we have the Pacific Ocean and it makes no sense not using that everlasting supply of water with desalination plants all up and down the coast, that would not help with power and control – which is what they get with more regulation and higher food and water costs.

Sure there’s costs in implementing such large tasks like desalination and reservoir projects, but the situation is costing us anyway. If the new plants were built, it would reduce the cost of water while cutting back on our need for importing food – which is what the giant agriculture companies are doing.

The San Joaquin Valley by itself could feed the country if it was allowed. The Imperial and Salinas Valley‘s along with the Sacramento area also can produce vast amounts of foods if we had enough water to properly farm them. But this doesn’t help the power brokers.

Fish over man

Delta Smelt

Helping the Delta Smelt – a bait fish that found its way into the canal system – has done irreparable harm to Californians.

There are more sinister plots in place but you should research this subject to come to your own conclusions. I’ve done that, and while this upsets the heck out of me and those around me who have learned these devious intentions as well, I feel people need to work on finding out more about why politicians are creating this man-made crisis.

By restricting water to farms with over-regulation creates a huge crisis out of the drought situation … plain and simple. Saying the needs of fish (i.e. the Delta Smelt) override the needs of people is something that should scare everyone. I understand about the place we humans have in making sure we are the caretakers of this planet and all that’s on it. But at the cost of man?

Paid water sent to the ocean

However, when no politician comes up with an idea to increase supply, but instead only wants to decrease use of land for food, makes me think twice about those in charge and there objective. And here’s a kicker: farmers paid for water, they never received. It’s like paying your water bill in advance and when you were ready to cook a meal and needed to turn the faucet on, there wasn’t anything there. Would you be happy?Valley_Farms_Paid-for_water

Ask yourself, why do we divert water out to the ocean rather than use it? The loss of tens of thousands of jobs by making sure the delta smelt has a certain amount of water is absurd. The canals the smelt swims in now, were built by and for the farmers who in-turn can’t use that water anymore. Does any of that make sense? To make the matter worse, the state is trucking in salmon to stock rivers. I’m sure that will turn out okay for all concerned. Yeah, right.

California naturally is a rather dry state and relies heavily on the Sierra Nevada Mountains for most of its water. A system was put in place including the California Aqueduct to make sure that even in drought, we would have the necessary water to make it through. With over-regulations, that state system has been broken by politicians and their cronies with Californians suffering the consequences. Some might call this an oligarch, but regardless, politics are at the bottom of this.

The California AqueductThe tragedy of all this is we didn’t and don’t need to diminish our crops. This man-made crisis can be fixed by doing what a drought-type climate should always do, conserve water when it rains and otherwise take sea water and make drinking water out of it. The long-term advantage of this would save any smelt while also relieving those of us who live in the Golden State of water restriction concerns.

Again, this is my opinion and you should go out and find what actually is going on … just like I did.

Now, on a more pleasant thought … think purple.

Related articles:

Should California expand reservoir capacity by removing sediment?

Is Water Conservation Good?

Water Versus Food?

Is There A Water Shortage In Paso Robles?

Paso Robles Water Problem … continued

Paso Robles Water Problem


Daryle W. Hier




Booze Or Poop

Ben Franklin had it right when he said,

“In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is freedom, in water there is bacteria.”

Booze or poop

Simple choice: Alcohol or E. Coli

Why was he right?

I was asked the other day if I couldn’t drink alcohol of any sorts, what would I do – what would I drink? A scary thought for sure being that I’m a homebrewer as a hobby and into wine barrels as a business. The same person said it wouldn’t be so bad because water is good for you and certainly there aren’t any scientist saying otherwise … or are they?

A chronicled investigation was done on water. In controlled experiments, researchers found that a person who drank 30 ounces of water a day took in two pounds of E. Coli a year.  E. Coli is most often found in body waste (otherwise known as feces or poop). Pardon my French but translated into simple terms, humans are drinking two pounds of crap a year. That’s not very healthy.

Superman equals Alcoholman

However, we have plenty of help to the rescue. Whether you are drinking wine, whiskey, beer or any other alcoholic beverage, they have all gone through boiling, fermenting and/or filtering procedures, plus alcohol itself naturally kills bacteria. So the moral of story is either you drink crap or alcohol; it’s your choice … and health that matters.

Poop or fart in a bikini

Stay thirsty … and healthy my friends.

We’ve all heard the stories about traveling by ship centuries ago and how some alcohol would be added to the water to keep it from being diseased. There are numerous stories of how people used alcohol to prevent or get rid of outbreaks like cholera by actually drinking booze on a regular basis. Such a dilemma.

By the way, this story has nothing to do with the popular book that came out earlier this year called Poop, Booze and Bikinis – which is a funny book on its own.

While some wish to disprove the positive affects of wine, beer et al, the reality is, it’s good for you and will likely allow you to live a long, healthy … and fun life. As with anything, moderation is the key when drinking alcohol. Stay healthy my friend.

So – are you a boozer or pooper?


Daryle W. Hier



Should California expand reservoir capacity by removing sediment?

No matter what your opinion is of the water situation in California, certainly the need for more capacity and production (i.e. desalination) is vital for a state that is home to roughly 40 million people and is for the most part a semi-arid region.

San Luis Reservoir

San Luis Reservoir near Los Banos, California, is the largest off-stream reservoir in the world

I have long wondered why more water capacity and retention plans weren’t created in the Los Angeles area, which I lived in for the better part of five decades. A handful of towns here and there did but most did not, expecting water to keep flowing from regions like the Southern Sierra and the Colorado River. Here on the Central Coast in Paso Robles, where I’ve now lived for seven glorious years, we too are working on garnering water from every resource available (go here and here for more on Paso’s water issues).

Sadly, politics plays a destructive part in the problem and in fact one of the reasons the San Luis Reservoir – which is the largest off-stream reservoir in the world – lacks water is due to pumping restrictions instituted by the federal government. Along with runoff from rain, San Luis gets water from the Delta and in-turn supplies much of the Silicon Valley with its drinking water.

Although state and federal politics get in the way, growing capacity is a viable option to help with California’s ongoing water problems and this blog (see below for full story by Jay Lund) offers some insight into how that may work and if it’s feasible. I believe everything must be done and expansion of current reservoirs through sediment removal should definitely be explored.


Daryle W. Hier



California WaterBlog

ShastaShasta Reservoir. Source: California Department of Water Resources

By Jay Lund

Removing sediment from reservoirs is often suggested as a potentially better way to expand storage capacity than raising dam heights or building new reservoirs. This is a natural notion to explore given the cost and likely environmental impacts of traditional expansions.

For perspective, the construction cost of conventional reservoir expansion is about $1,700 to $2,700 an acre-foot (af) of storage capacity. For example:

View original post 523 more words

Wine Barrel As Rain Barrel

Everyone wants to be green – whatever that truly means – and one of the many ways to be thrifty, conserve and smart is to use a barrel to capture rain. Here in California, water is somewhat of a hard commodity to acquire, so folks in these parts are looking at how to capture rainwater to use in gardens and keep their green areas, well, green.

Wine barrel as rain barrelTo that end, have you ever thought about using a wine barrel as a rain barrel?  The obvious advantages of rainwater include that’s it’s free, but also the fact is rainwater can actually help improve the health of your gardens, lawn and trees. Rainwater is naturally soft and devoid of minerals, chlorine and other chemicals found in water produced from treatment plants such as city water. And did you know that during a one-inch rain event, over half a gallon of water can fall on just one square foot of roof? Yes, you read that right, just one square foot!

So what are you waiting for? Wine barrels as rain barrels is not a novel idea as people have been doing this for centuries. However, now that water rates have skyrocketed along with the idea of using safer rainwater over that of city water – it has become more popular than ever. Plus, a wine barrel will hold 500 pounds of water – that’s a lot of natural pure rainwater. On a side note, keep in mind old oak wine barrels are being used for so many other reuses, that they are becoming harder and harder to find.

Q: When does it rain money? A: When there is “change” in the weather.

Capture Kits

As far as how you can capture rain and use it as water for your gardens et al, there are several kits out there that you can do on your own. These do-it-yourself kits range in price from $20 all the way to well over $100. It all depends on how sophisticated you want to get and whether you can afford to make sure it’s self contained. Note that all these kits require you to cut into your drainage down spouts.

Rain Reserve's Complete Rain Barrel Diverter Kit  - Oatey's Mystic Rainwater Collection System

Rain Reserve’s Complete Rain Barrel Diverter Kit (top) and Oatey’s Mystic Rainwater Collection System (bottom) offer two different approaches to rainwater collection.

The lowest priced kit I found is made by Oatey called the Mystic Rainwater Collection System and the unit simply hooks to your downspout and a diverter hose goes into your barrel. You will have to figure out how to drill a hole in the top of the barrel and seal it if possible. These units usually don’t go for more than $40.

A more middle of the road kit that I personally thought was about right is Rain Reserve’s Complete Rain Barrel Diverter Kit. It’s a closed system and has a trick reservoir that will send water back to the downspout when the barrel is about to overflow – that way water doesn’t spill willy-nilly all over the place. A bit pricey, running up to $100, yet evaluated with other similar units, nothing compares to the quality.

The other way to go is shine the wine barrel and buy a all-in-one plastic barrel with the kit to go with it. They can be found for as much as $300 but I found one on Amazon for about $150. It isn’t as cool or natural looking, but is still does the job.

No gutters? No problem

Roof valleyNow some of you might be saying: Hey, I don’t have any rain gutters or downspouts on my home. This isn’t high tech but here are some tips.

Spray your roof with water – or watch the water running off the roof the next time it rains – note those points that are the heaviest. Another way is to look for where your roof comes down a makes a V – they call that a trough or roof valley – see the illustration above. An old fashion idea is to put a rope or chain on your roof on an angle and water will follow the rope – see where it comes off the roof and place your barrel there. With all these ideas, remove or cut the top of your barrel and place it where the heaviest drainage areas came off the roof.

By the way, there are kits that can add a second or even more barrels to your collection system.

One last add. There’s a company called RainSaucers and they sell a device that can be attached to the top of a barrel. To describe what they look like, imagine a dog shield collar – you know, those ridiculous things you put on your dog so they don’t gnaw on an injured area. Another description would be they look like a satellite dish. It widens the catch diameter immensely so you can place the barrel anywhere you want.  See video below for more info on RainSaucers.


Now as far as another possible situation you could run into, some people might find they have issues with their old used wine barrel leaking. Here are a few different ways to solve this problem. First, take your barrel and fill with hot water – remember, these barrels may have been sitting outside drying up for quite a while. Once you’ve filled it up, keep water in it for the next couple of days. It should allow the oak to soak some of the water and naturally seal itself.

Another way to resolve leaking is if after you’ve tried keeping water in it and the barrel still leaks, use barrel sealing wax and while it’s full and leaking, take the wax and press it in to the crack or cracks that are leaking. Some folks will mark where the leak is, empty the barrel and proceed to heat the area and then press the wax in as tight as they can. You can use paraffin or bees wax.

Still a third way is to purchase a pond liner. They are heavy-duty rubber liners that you can press into the barrel and then cut the excess. I’ve not done this but have used pond liners in the past for a small waterfall and they last forever and are tougher than Kelsey’s nuts. Yes, this operation requires you removing the top of the barrel. Do this by removing the bands from that end of the barrel. The staves will pull apart a little bit and you can then remove the head. Be very careful not to let the barrel fall apart. It can get ugly.

Looking good

A last thought. These rain barrels don’t have to be eyesores or not meshing with the rest of the house and/or outdoor area. If you sanded, stained and sealed the barrel and then put a nice varnish on the outside, it would last much longer … indeed, they might never dry out. Plus, it would look great! Hmmm, I might know someone who does that – click on that barrel at the bottom of the page.

Rainwater_harvestingIf you research rain barrels at all, you’ll find an endless amount of information and products. If you want to stay natural, a wine barrel is the best way to go and what the heck, they look cool too. Consider the idea of decorating the used wine barrel – bring out your inner artist.  Or again, make it easy on yourself and purchase a Decorative Wine Barrel. One last item you might forget is a bung – don’t want to lose half your water.  If you missed it, I just wrote about a beautiful high tech bung plug now available.

As always, if you have a question, feel free to ask below, email me, give us a call, message me or the forty other ways people can contact me in this ever advanced modern era.

Now don’t dally, get yourself a wine barrel and rainwater harvesting system and make your garden happy, plus maybe you’ll save a buck or two along the way.

“Let the rain wash away, all the pain of yesterday.”


Daryle W. Hier




Paso Robles’ Hot Springs

The main street that runs through Paso Robles is none other than Spring Street.  Aptly named for the hot springs that once were all over the Paso area, hot springs with their sulfur and mud made the region a popular destination many years ago.

One of the many reasons Paso Robles is now famous includes their mineral hot baths.

One of the many reasons Paso Robles is now famous includes their mineral hot baths.

Known first by Native Americans

The springs have been a godsend and at times a hell all wrapped up in one.  The earliest times in Paso Robles two centuries ago found the padres at Mission San Miguel using the soothing springs.  The mission fathers were made aware of the thermal mineral springs by the local Native Americans (Salinan) who knew of the hot thermal waters.  From the City of Paso Robles website, the area was known as ‘California’s oldest watering place’.

Actually Paso Robles was originally called Agua Caliente – not to be confused with the desert resort casino near Palm Springs, California.  The name simply referred to the area as ‘hot water’ or ‘hot springs’.

In the earliest years of the area back in the mid-1800s, there really wasn’t anything in town but a log cabin built around a mineral hot springs near where present day City Hall sits.  When the town received a post office, shortly afterwards the city fathers changed the name to El Paso de Robles – ‘The Pass of the Oaks’ – a tree which the Central Coast has a bounty of.

Rich and famous

Bath houses such as at the Paso Robles Inn were famous a century or more ago.

Bath houses such as the Paso Robles Inn were famous a century or more ago.

The restorative and healing affects the hot springs had made Paso Robles notable as a health resort for many decades and the bath houses were world renown including at the Paso Robles Inn.  The steaming caldron of water from deep in the Earth’s crust drew the wealthy and famous who made Paso Robles a trendy stop and even the Pittsburgh Pirates made the town their spring training grounds in the 20s and 30s.  Jan Paderewski, who was a famed pianist/composer, ended up making Paso Robles one of his homes – drawn by the healing affect of the mineral springs on his hands.  The notorious James brothers, Jesse and Frank, lived in Paso for a spell.

Situated about halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, the mineral springs were popular for travelers but as better transportation and other corridors emerged, the recognition waned along with the fact that some springs dried up during the 20th Century.  By the way, the city’s Municipal Pool on Oak and 28th Street was once home to a sulfur hot springs.


The 2003 San Simeon Earthquake reopened up a hot springs hole in Downtown Paso.

Ranches and orchards sprang up everywhere in the ‘North County’ region of San Luis Obispo County where Paso Robles sits and of course in the latter stages of the 1900s, vineyards brought a new fame and fortune to the area.  An earthquake in 2003 reconnected the hot springs to the surface in some areas while bringing unwanted fissures that brought a terrible smell in town that wasn’t remedied until a couple years ago.  Still, with the new reputation of the region as a destination for vacationers, these thermal and soothing waters may have brought the mineral hot baths back into prominence of sorts.

Paso has a few local businesses that offer mineral hot springs including the famous Paso Robles Inn in Downtown, the River Oaks Hot Springs Spa on the north part of town and the eclectic and natural Franklin Hot Springs southeast of the city.

River Oaks Hot Springs Spa

River Oaks Hot Springs Spa offers wondrously relaxing hot tubs with great views.

As the world’s number one wine region and a popular traveling destination, the history and background of Paso Robles can be lost sometimes.  However, the cities rich past is still present and something tells me that more hot springs will pop up before long, bringing their popularity in the region full circle from centuries ago.

Sources and photos in part are thanks to River Oaks Hot Springs Spa, Paso Robles Inn and the City of Paso Robles.


Daryle W. Hier



Is Water Conservation Good?

Conserving fresh water for people to live regular lives is as important as breathing and is essential to a quality of life … or for that matter any life at all.  However, can we go overboard and are there unintended consequences?  Is water conservation good?

Water is a precious commodity and although nearly three-quarters of the world is covered in the liquid stuff, less than five percent is fresh water (source: USGS).  Still, we have water everywhere, but as human beings, we can only live on land so getting H2O is important and vital to keeping us, well, alive.Fresh groundwater and surface-water make up the bubble over Kentucky, which is about 252 miles in diameter. The sphere over Georgia reresents fresh-water lakes and rivers (about 34.9 miles in diameter).

The water issues here in California are a concern for many and the drought has most of us preoccupied by the current problems associated with a lack of water.  Even though some in urban areas don’t feel or see the devastation going on with farms and ranches alike across the Golden State, there are still long-term ramifications for our lack of rain the last couple of years and whether you live in or out of the big city, this problem is for all to contemplate.

Big cities and fish VS small towns and farmers

Currently, the state of California has determined that fish and urban dwellers will get whatever extra waters we have while independent water districts mainly in small towns and rural areas combined with farmers and ranchers will not be given any water – none.  Go here for more on the states water and food war.

Since most of winter is behind us and long-term weather forecasts don’t show much in the way of rain, this problem is now a given: we have a shortage of water and conservation modes will have to be imposed.

File:Reverse osmosis desalination plant.JPG

Desalination units like this reverse-osmosis plant in Spain, are one of many possible solutions to a lack of water.

Now you probably thought I was going to give some insane argument against water conservation – and I do like to be a devil’s advocate – yet, there’s no doubting we live in a semi-arid world in California, so saving water must be done.  Conversely, with the Pacific Ocean on our Central Coast, there’s no reason desalination plants shouldn’t be popping up everywhere.  And catchment systems should be ubiquitously in every crevice we can place them.  People should use their god-given brain and do what’s right to conserve water the best we can.

Nearly everyone is a conservationist and environmentalist in one way or the other.  With that said, do some rush-to-judgment by creating a situation where conserving has gone too far?

The power bill goes up during the summer months as air conditioners start humming.  Walk on concrete or asphalt for awhile on a hot summer day and the feet let you know it’s hot.  It’s why we head to parks in the summer, especially those you live in big cities, to enjoy the green grass and shade trees.

Unintended consequences

Personal story: A part of the house was hotter than the other not because it was on the Electricityandwatersunny side of the property but instead, it was surrounded by rocks, succulents, cactus and dirt.  A little research found we could cool the house down by removing the rocks etc and in-place planting grass and shrubs.  Long story short, the temperatures in the warmer area of the house went down multiple degrees and in-turn, power expenditures went down.  Problem solved.  I only wished I had planted a very trick-like grass seed that is drought tolerant and hardly ever needs mowed – but cost was the problem there.

The heat rising during summer months notwithstanding, the advantage of a rock, cactus, succulent and dirt yard as far as water conservation was trumped by the cooling effects of grass and shrubs and in-turn a lower electrical bill.  So what was the deciding factor?  Comfort … and making Earth a little greener while keeping a few greenbacks in our pocket.  Plus, let’s face it, lush looks better and keeps property values higher.

Here’s another small item to keep in mind.  When we had the water shortages a few decades back in Los Angeles, people did what they were told to do and cut back significantly on water usage.  After awhile, water departments starting complaining that weren’t making any money and raised rates – again, not because there was a lack of water, but because not enough was being used.  Unintended consequences indeed.Lush versus cactus


The answer?  This isn’t a zero-sum game and there is no direct answer here, only caution about racing to conclusions and instead, thinking out what actually is the best solution for each individual, town, community or state.  Some might feel better about themselves if they dig up their lawns and put a rock garden in with some cactus and succulents. Some feel guilty if they aren’t appearing to doing something about our planet.  That’s fine.  To each his own.  By the way, even ‘drought tolerant’ plants are struggling.

And again, without racing to a conclusion, let’s just keep in mind unintended consequences.  Keep conserving water and in the mean time, contact your local representatives about other avenues including reclaiming water or other ideas we can come up with.  Plus, it’s a good excuse to keep tabs on local politicians who seem to be more and more distant every year.

The title question is somewhat rhetorical.  Let’s all do our part; but, is the current situation a rush-to-judgment on water conservation?  What do you think?


Daryle Hier




Water Versus Food?

The state of California is in a severe drought and though we just had a drenching rain on Super Bowl Sunday, the fact is one storm does not end what still is the driest year on record.  Governor Jerry Brown declared a state-of-emergency and then to exacerbate the situation and make matters worse for farmers, specifically in the San Joaquin Valley, the state has cut off all water from the State Water Project.

Essentially, the Governor and state of California are saying ‘you’re on your own’.  And yet this serious situation doesn’t appear to be making the major headlines with the media who seemed more concerned with toilet fishing in the Olympics than a major food source being driven to the brink.

Farmers still taking the brunt

Delta smelt

Farmers helped build canals for their farms that eventually the endangered delta smelt now inhabits.

Many cities across the Golden State will be hamstrung for water, but those feeling the pinch the most will be farmers.  The region had been already hit hard when water restrictions were imposed to purportedly save the delta smelt that had worked its way into farmer’s canals.  That created unemployment figures that in some areas were 50% and produced losses in the billions of dollars for the state.

The San Joaquin Valley is or at least was considered one of the most productive food regions in the United States if not the world.  However, the valley has been devastated economically by the supposed dangers to the smelt.  Now, with the state denying farms any water at all, the likely destruction of farmland could be catastrophic.  It should be noted that even with the cuts, Fresno County still leads the nation in farming.

The San Joaquin Valley is a large representation of what is going on all over California.  With only urban cities receiving limited deliveries of water, farming communities as well as small towns could be left without.  The state is leaving waters in reservoirs for fish to survive but not farmers.  As was mentioned in our story last week, cities all over the state our nervously looking for water such as what sits underneath the Paso Robles ground water basin.

Pulling out

Ironic sign for farmers

Ironic sign for farmers

Nut farms which use more water than say vegetable crops will see owners prone to pull the trees for crops that don’t require as much water.  Such may be the case with grapes as well.  Vineyards are more efficient than nut trees but vintners are getting anxious and in some small instances, vines are being pulled.

Concerns of Californians are all about the lack of water.  The question though has to be asked as to whether some fish and urban populations should take more of the brunt of this problem or are we going to risk farms and food instead.

Although there are questions about just how much more storms are is in store for the state, even if the rest of winter was steady with rain, major issues will continue, as sides are being taken between water and food … and farmers.


Daryle Hier



Is There A Water Shortage In Paso Robles?

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 Drought-soiltalks 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.

Extra water?

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?


The Paso Robles Ground Water basin running essentially with the Salinas River is the largest underground aquifer in the West.

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.

Trampled rights?

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).

Water gushing 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?


Daryle Hier



Paso Robles Water Problem … continued

This might be the Wine Region of the World, but even in a paradise like the Central Coast of California, there are tribulations that can threaten the livelihoods of its citizens.

It appears the water problems with Paso Robles are set to be managed.  According to the Paso Robles Agricultural Alliance for Groundwater Solutions (PRAAGS), they’ve proposed a special water district be formed to manage the ground water basin.  Elections would be required.  Go here for more on the latest from PRAAGS.DaouVineyard.adj

As was mentioned in the last post on this subject, a combination of a semi-arid region, drought, an escalation in the population along with huge growth in farming (wineries), has left the ground water levels dangerously low.  However, politics has tried to rear its ugly head and create a situation that could turn into a quagmire.  The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors instituted a temporary ordinance (initially 45 days, but now two years) that required any pumping of groundwater for new crops had to be offset by an equal amount of watering of other crops turned off – a ruling called the 1-1 ratio.

Now is seems all sides are willing to come to the table to stabilize the water problems, but the sticking point may be simply: Who will be in charge?

Political body VS courts

That’s what Cindy Steinbeck of Protect Our Water Rights (POWR) has presented. Steinbeck representing a group of local farmers, sued the county to retain their water rights under California law – it’s more complicated than that – so that there can be an equitable and fair agreement for all concerned.  In its simplest form, POWR wants the courts to decide how the administrating of this new water district works rather than a political agency.  Go here for her latest on the management of a new district.

What does all this mean?  As I’ve said many times, I’m not someone who can come up with the proper answers, but I do know that using our water issues as a political football is wrong.

I would suggest other regions with similar situations arising due to their growth in the wine business, be aware and attentive of this kind of problem – especially in California or other areas with a semi-arid climate and limited water.

Agreements can be made by all sides but making politics out of this issue needs to be kept at bay … I hope.


Daryle W. Hier