In 2015, the County of San Luis Obispo Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an ordinance that regulates the exportation of groundwater out of one of the County’s groundwater basins or across county lines. The Board approved this ordinance to protect the County’s water supplies.
The county is subject to cyclical droughts, declining groundwater levels, degradation of groundwater quality and a limited availability of surface water supplies. At the same time, 57 percent of all domestic water supply needs within the county are met by the use of groundwater, according to the ordinance.
Anyone who wishes to export groundwater will now need to get a permit. But this ordinance doesn’t just apply to individuals or companies. The County and the Flood Control District would also need to obtain a permit before exporting groundwater. The Paso Robles Basin Advisory Committee will receive copies of export permit applications.
Any proposed export must not result in well interference with wells owned or relied upon by others or create a cone of depression that extends beyond the applicant’s land. However, the ordinance includes an exemption to allow movement of contaminated groundwater without first obtaining a permit if the release complies with discharge permits issued by the local, state, or federal resource agencies. Contaminated groundwater is groundwater that has been altered by waste, seawater intrusion or other material to a degree, which creates a hazard to public health through actual or potential poisoning, or through actual or potential spreading of disease.
A permittee may submit written request for a renewal no later than 90 days before the permit expires. The permittee must demonstrate that there has been no significant change in circumstances from those which caused the approval of the previous export permit application. The County Public Works Director may grant a renewal term not to exceed one year. Renewals can be granted an unlimited number of times provided the necessary findings can be made.
In January 2014, the Board directed to staff to explore the technical and legal aspects of an ordinance regulating the exportation of groundwater.
In September 2014, the Board directed staff to prepare an ordinance regulating the exportation of groundwater. Staff prepared a draft ordinance and solicited public feedback on the draft, including referrals to the Water Resource Advisory Committee, Agricultural Liaison Advisory Board, Paso Robles Groundwater Basin Advisory Committee, Community Advisory Councils, and others.
In November 2015, the Board directed staff to move consideration of the proposed ordinance off calendar while staff revisited concerns raised by a number of stakeholder groups and individuals. On February 3, 2015, the Board directed staff to bring the ordinance forward for Board discussion. On March 17, 2015, the Board discussed the revised public review draft ordinance and directed staff to bring it back for introduction.
In April 2015, the board held a hearing and took action to adopt the ordinance. Watch the hearing in the video below.