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Locals respond to basin adjudication advocate 

PRAAGS and PRO Water Equity reply to California Water Impact Network

map of the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin

A map of the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin. Image from City of Paso Robles

In response to Carolee Krieger’s opinion piece of April 24, 2014, there are some things that she says that make sense: Groundwater is a finite resource. California does not regulate groundwater. The State should not be the management body for the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin. With all of this, we agree.

PRO Water Equity and the Paso Robles Agricultural Alliance for Groundwater Solutions (PRAAGS), two diverse groups representing residential rural landowners and irrigated agricultural interests, have spent the last year and more working on a locally-designed, locally-controlled water district for the Basin, where voters and landowners alike are fairly represented by the proposed district’s board. The district would be charged, first and foremost, with managing and balancing the Basin, using a combination of conservation and supplemental water projects. The district as proposed is the only solution where overliers have a direct say in who will be managing the groundwater, our shared resource, and how it is managed. It won’t be the State (which Ms. Krieger fears) and it won’t be the County Flood Control District, which four of our five county supervisors agree is not the correct management body.

Ms. Krieger’s contention that “water speculators” are planning to take over the Basin for banking and export is not supported by fact. Indeed, the existing hydrology studies show that there is very limited banking capability in the Basin and so therefore, a bleak financial prospect for anyone wanting to undertake such a scheme. Additionally, exportation of water from the Basin makes no sense as there is no water for export. Why would we, the overliers, even consider sending our vitally-needed and overly stressed resource elsewhere? To reinforce that idea, PRAAGS and PRO Water Equity have included no-export language in the petition to LAFCo.

It is interesting that Ms. Krieger, who is neither landowner nor resident of the Basin, asks “So what can we do?” She has no skin in the game. Her single solution of adjudication doesn’t affect her. She would not have to sit by for the decade or more it would take to reach a full adjudication and watch our dwindling resource continue to be unmanaged. She would not have to participate in paying the millions in expected attorneys’ fees that everyone in the Basin will be pitching in as we all will be party to this suit whether we like it or not. Her tax dollars will not go to defend San Luis Obispo County and the other municipalities; ours will. She states that 22 groundwater basins in California have been successfully adjudicated, but we would question her definition of “successful”: yes, there may have been a court conclusion to the adjudication, but ask the overliers how they felt about how long it took, the fact that they wound up with no more rights to pump the water beneath their land for their reasonable and beneficial use than they started with, how much it cost them, how their basins went unmanaged in the meantime, and how they feel about having zero input into the decisions a judge makes regarding allocation apart from another lawsuit.

Our Basin is in dire need of management for long term sustainability and that is best done by those of us who reside and own property here; not by the State, not by the courts, not by the County. The proposed Paso Robles Groundwater Basin District is our best chance to provide for the future and for all to have a say in how that future is determined.

Jerry Reaugh
Chairman, PRAAGS

Sue Luft
President, PRO Water Equity

For more information, please visit the PRAAGS website at www.praags.org and PRO Water Equity’s website at www.prowaterequity.org.

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