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LA Times: Vineyards’ thirst pits growers against residents 

LA Times weighs in on water basin debate

Story on Paso Robles groundwater basin reports on dry wells and swelling vineyards

Excerpts below:

In Paso Robles, vineyards’ thirst pits growers against residents

With little if any rainfall, the Paso Robles region must rely on an ancient aquifer for water. As the water table drops and wells go dry, residents seek to curb use by the area’s increasingly popular wineries.

Paso Robles groundwater basin

Denise Smith, a retired teacher, has water trucked to her Paso Robles area home because her well has run dry. Al Seib / Los Angeles Times /August 29, 2013

While the world clamors for more Paso Robles wine, rural residents like Denise Smith yearn for something far more precious: local water. The retired teacher is one of dozens of homeowners in parched northern San Luis Obispo county whose wells have run dry.

Unable to afford a deeper well at a cost of $30,000, she trucks in water every few weeks. Meals are eaten on paper plates. Showers last 45 seconds. Toilets are seldom flushed. Where did the water go? Smith and other residents say it’s flowing freely into the area’s signature industry — wine.

“There’s too many doctors and lawyers moving in here and putting in their Chateau Cashflow,” said Zan Overturf, owner of the Treeman, a Paso Robles plant nursery who has seen local business dry up because of the groundwater shortage.

“I feel vilified. We’re trying to solve the problem,” said Jerry Reaugh, a grape grower leading an alliance to create a water district. “We’re the only people who showed up at the table that have positive solutions. The other solutions are ‘You’ve got to stop, you’ve got to stop, you’ve got to stop.'”

Grower Cindy Steinbeck hopes lawmakers ultimately arrive at a solution to the water basin problem. But she rankles at the perception that all winemakers use water wastefully.

Read the full story in the LA Times

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About the author: Publisher Scott Brennan

Scott Brennan is the publisher of this newspaper and founder of Access Publishing. Follow him on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or follow his blog.