Council approves providing emergency water to rural residents
The Paso Robles City Council voted Tuesday night to allow city water to be sold to rural residents. Paso Robles Water Resources Manager Christopher Alakel presented a proposal to the councilmen that would aid homeowners who live outside the city limits but are facing wells running dry.
“We’re limited to our city borders for service,” Alakel said. “We’ve got some residential rural communities on our periphery … all those that don’t live in a city with municipal water, rely on their own wells. Many of those wells are running dry.”
The idea, Alakel said, is to give those residents without water a chance to get some water while they decide what to do. One option is to get in line to get a new well drilled, but it could take time, so this gives them some time.
“It’s going to be expensive for them,” Alakel said. It will give rural residents a source of water while they evaluate what to do, he said. Alakel said he doesn’t expect there to be a lot of requests, so far, he said, there have only been two.
Now, when the city gets a request for water, the residents will be directed to call a water hauler who can then enter an agreement with the city to only provide the water to rural residents with dry wells. The city will charge normal water rates to the hauler, who will then charge the resident, adding on a surcharge for hauling the water. The water hauler will get the water via fire hydrants that are fixed with a water meter especially for the water hauler. There is a rental charge for the hydrant meter, which Alakel said will break down the costs for the residents verse each getting their own hydrant meter. He said it just doesn’t make sense for every resident needing water to rent his or her own hydrant meter.
Councilman Steve Martin asked how requests would be prioritized. Alakel said it would be first come, first served. Martin then asked what the exit strategy is.
“The plan is to continue this through the duration of the drought,” Alakel said. There has been a significant reduction in water use in the city limits, he said.
Councilman John Hamon said he has a problem with continuing it through the end of the drought, especially since it could last a couple of years.
“I have a problem with that; we should serve us first,” Hamon said.
Alakel said that the city reserves the right to end the issuance of the hydrant meters at any time, which certainly will happen if the water reserves dip lower than is comfortable. However, he said, he doesn’t think there will be an overwhelming number of requests because the city has only received a couple so far.
“My water is paid by the landlord, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a concern about this,” said Dale Gustin of Paso Robles. “I think you should have an annual drop dead clause. I think you should renew it yearly to see if it’s working or not. I don’t think it should be open ended.”
Mayor Duane Picanco agreed, saying that the issue should go before the council yearly for review.
Hamon moved to adopt the policy with the addition of reviewing the issue at the beginning of the next summer season. Mayor Pro-Tem Ed Steinbeck seconded the motion. It passed 4-0; Councilman Fred Strong was absent.