As spring arrives on the Central Coast, we can be thankful that a wet winter has replenished our depleted aquifers and covered the hillsides with green. The recent rainfalls were heavy enough to run water in the creeks and rivers all over the County.
Our lakes have filled up, and heavy snow pack in the mountains should keep the water flowing well into the spring months. It will be easy to forget the struggles we experienced through the drought years from 2013-2016. During the drought, we not only found water in short supply, but we lost thousands of trees all across the county. The North County landscape is still littered with native oak trees that may never recover from the drought years. While it is wonderful to have an abundance of water this year, we need to continue to be diligent with water management even in the years of heavy rainfall. Atascadero has the advantage of the Atascadero Mutual Water Company. AMWC does a fantastic job of providing great water management for its shareholders, the citizens of Atascadero. Elsewhere in the county, people weren’t so lucky during the drought years. Many landowners in the unincorporated areas saw their wells struggle, and while these big rains should relieve the stress, management of the groundwater and the ability to store enough surface water will be critical to a secure water future.
We learned a lot of lessons through the drought to help us manage water better. Permeable surfaces, water-thrifty landscapes, and areas to percolate water all help create a healthy water budget.
The county is actively working with cities to develop Groundwater Sustainability Plans to comply with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) passed by the State legislature in 2014. With six (6) identified basins in our county, there is a lot of work to do to plan for a sustainable water future. From reducing demand to creating new storage, many ideas are being discussed to ensure that our County’s water supply is sustainable far into the future.
So for now, let’s enjoy this beautiful wet spring! But rest assured, the Water Division of your County Public Works Department will stay focused, so that the next time we have a short rainfall year, we will be ready.
For more information on the SGMA Groundwater Sustainable Plans, please visit www.slocountywater.org. It’s an honor to represent the 5th District.
– Debbie Arnold,