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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on March 25th, 2015, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 16, Issue 3 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 16, Issue 3

Grant helps ensure Guadalupe's water access

By CAMILLIA LANHAM

Over Memorial Day weekend 2013, Guadalupe’s one functioning groundwater well pump stopped working. Luckily, California hadn’t yet admitted to its full-fledged drought problem and was fulfilling more than 5 percent allocations of state water that year, so Guadalupe floated until the city could fix the pump.

Should that same scenario happen this year, the city would be up a dry creek bed, and it wouldn’t matter if it were with or without a paddle. Basically, with state water supplies being iffy at best, Guadalupe wants to ensure the city can get what it needs out of the groundwater basin. Reinvigorating the pump in a well that already exists—but doesn’t work—would enable the city to keep water flowing to its citizens should that main pump go down again.


WATER STORAGE
The Obispo Tank in Guadalupe stores water from the state and the Santa Maria underground basin.
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CITY OF GUADALUPE

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently granted the city of Guadalupe the money it needs to get a secondary pump going, with a $347,000 allocation through the USDA’s Emergency Community Water Assistance Grant Program. Sarah Marquat of USDA Rural Development said communities/cities can qualify for the grants because of a decline in surface water supplies or a decline in water quality.

Marquat said the program helped with 25 projects through grants that totaled $9.7 million in 2014. Most of those projects were completed in the Central Valley, which is dependent upon state water supplies. This year, the USDA is also working with the cities of Santa Margarita and San Simeon—both of which are having water supply issues because of declining groundwater and reservoir levels—on potential grants for emergency water supplies. She said Guadalupe qualified for a grant because a drought-caused reduction in state water allocations dried up the city’s surface-water supplies.

Of course, where a city gets its water from isn’t necessarily a simple thing, but the breakdown of Guadalupe’s water supply goes like this: The city is allowed to pump 1,300 acre-feet per year out of the adjudicated Santa Maria groundwater basin and is allocated 605 acre-feet of state water per year.

Now, the way Guadalupe City Administrator Andrew Carter puts it, that supply of state water isn’t really a sure thing.

“Particularly in a drought; it’s what I like to call fictitious water,” he said. “You don’t get 100 percent of your allocation.”

Last year, 2014, the state only fulfilled 5 percent of its allocations, which in Guadalupe’s case meant approximately 30 acre-feet of water. Carter said that amount of water isn’t enough to keep the flow potable in the pipeline that runs to Guadalupe from the Central Coast Water Authority’s state water line.

“So we had to shut it down—[we] would have lost it,” Carter said, adding that Guadalupe instead sold that 30 acre-feet to the city of Solvang.

This year, things aren’t looking much better, and the state’s currently saying it will only fulfill 15 percent of state water allocations. Carter said the city hasn’t yet determined what it’s going to do, but the options are either to sell the water or carry it over to next year. That means the city would take its allocation but leave it in the San Luis Reservoir until there’s enough of a state allocation to push water through the city’s state water line.

For now, Guadalupe is fully dependent on groundwater supplies that are acquired through one well, and therefore one pump. And the city has reduced its yearly water usage, so it’s not pulling the full 1,300 acre-feet it can out of the groundwater basin. But once construction on the DJ Farms housing development is completed, the city will definitely need access to all of its allocated water—both from the state and basin.

And while the one well used by the city isn’t showing signs of diminished water levels, drawing from one part of a groundwater basin could have unforeseen effects. Carter said it’s like using too big of a straw to pull water from one spot.

Plus: “What if something happens to that pump?” he said. “If you have all of your eggs in one basket, you run a risk.”

The USDA grant is actually partially reimbursing the city for work it has already completed to tie an existing old water well and pump to Guadalupe’s current water system. That money will also be used to replace the old pump’s infrastructure and make it so utility operators can switch it on and off automatically, rather than manually.

“The last thing you want is to not have water,” Carter said. “For a city as financially disadvantaged as Guadalupe, getting this grant requiring no match is a godsend.”

 

Contact Managing Editor Camillia Lanham at clanham@santamariasun.com.










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