Oh, Dear, there was that nice Mr. Spencer Harris, of Cleath & Associates, saying all those perfectly dreadful things to a nearly empty room at July 21st CSD meeting. He was giving his Draft Final Report on sea water intrusion and the general water plan. Some conclusions:
We are in overdraft, which means we’ve been pumping more water out of the lower aquifer than Mother Nature can return. This has been going on for years, was known to be occurring and had been discussed by the CSD long ago, but nothing was done. Cleath & Associates had only recently been hired to do a water basin management study and plan. Funding for a toilet retrofit rebate program went kerflooey, so that was the end of that. And I don’t remember ever seeing huge headlines in our smiley-faced Bear Pride newsletter years ago saying: “DANGEROUS OVERDRAFT! CSD CALLS EMERGENCY MEETINGS WITH COUNTY AND STATE WATER OFFICIALS.” Instead of dealing immediately with the water shortage, the CSD ignored it and focused on building the sewer.
Which was all very ironic since that Nice Mr. Harris noted that “salt water intrusion won’t be cured by the sewer plant.” Huh?
Nobody from day one tested the upper aquifer for “emerging contaminants” and other “nasty stuff.” Call it an asset check, sort of like actually checking your bank balances before designing and implementing a retirement investment plan, so you’d know exactly how much money you actually had to plan with. This was never done, still hasn’t been done, which is odd, because this entire sewer plan (“Faster! Better! Cheaper!”) was originally sold to this community on the basis that it would be a sustainable system and allow build out without having to import state water.
Which brings even more irony or a grim feeling that The Old Bait & Switcheroo’s at work. There in the report is the need to “import supplemental water,” since even with the best scenario possible, even without any build-out, we’ll still be in overdraft. So we now have a sewer project that (a) won’t “cure” sea water intrusion, (b) will have to do the one thing most folks thought it was going to avoid -- import water, and (c) will leave a lot of people who were told they would be able to build once the sewer plant was in place high and dry. Literally, dry. No water? No water permit and no dreamers dream home for years and years. Sorry.
But, wait, it gets better. Simplified, the present plan is designed to collect and treat wastewater then return it to the upper aquifer, draw out and treat that water, reuse, return & etc. all with the ultimate goal of forcing all our treated water – still containing a certain amount of contaminants – slowly back down into the clean, 7,000 year-old waters of the lower aquifer. In short, under orders from the Regional Water Quality Control Board to “clean up our water,” we’ll be polluting a different set of waters, which could put us back under the gun for violating the Porter Cologne Act, which the RWQCB is using as controlling authority in the first place. Talk about a closed loop!
For years, the CSD pooh-poohed Ag Exchange as some unworkable “loony alternative” trotted out by “The Opposition.” Yet there it is in the new official water management report, but nobody has seriously looked at or actually penciled it out to see if, for example, such a system would buy more geologic time and space to actually clean the treated water better before it returns to the deep..
Now, in a sane community, this water report would have resulted in grim-faced mobs storming the battlements. Heads would roll! And every entity in the state with the word W-A-T-E-R in their title would be called in for an emergency confab and a complete review of this whole project would start. But this time, it would start from the WATER end of the deal, not the sewer/nitrate end. After all, you can always get nitrates out of water, but nobody can get more water out of NO water.
So, that’s what would happen in a sane community. But we live in Los Osos, where our CSD voted to approve the concept of hiring a full-time Permanent Water Guy to deal with whatever water problems and costs come up . . . later. Then it was pedal to the metal in a race for the cliff.