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Templeton residents want their district to collaborate on creative solutions for future water availability

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Templeton Community Services District doesn't have water units available for new development—and although the district says it's working on projects to ensure future water availability, some residents are asking the district to do more than it's proposing.

WATER AVAILABILITY The Templeton Community Services District wants the community to know it's working on long-term water availability. - IMAGE COURTESY OF TEMPLETON COMMUNITY SERVICES DISTRICT
  • Image Courtesy Of Templeton Community Services District
  • WATER AVAILABILITY The Templeton Community Services District wants the community to know it's working on long-term water availability.

Residents and businesses that are already allotted water units have access to plenty of water, but there's a lengthy waitlist for those who want to expand their home or business, or want to propose new development.

During the district's Dec. 1 board meeting, community members brought up an issue from several years ago: From 2015 through 2016, Tenet Health's Twin Cities Community Hospital was interested in expanding its services by creating a wound care center on its property. Rumor had it that the hospital didn't follow through with the project because it needed more water units, which the district didn't possess to give.

According to email correspondence between the district and Tenet Health, the hospital was in the planning phase for a modular wound care center for several months in September 2015. At the time, the report for the project indicated that the hospital had reached its water credits limit, so Tenet was trying to figure out ways to conserve water to offset its use.

In May 2016, the district approved Tenet's water savings plan and said it was willing to provide a conditional "will serve" letter for the proposed project. Tenet never submitted an application to move forward with construction.

Tenet Health's CEO Mark Lisa issued a statement to New Times, saying that there were many options, proposals, and plans during the development of the wound care clinic. The clinic is currently open and serving patients, but it's not a separate facility.

"Ultimately we thought the best course for the community was to have it in the hospital setting. We are truly grateful to the Community Services District for its consideration and approval of our application when we were looking at the option of a free-standing clinic," Lisa said.

District board president Geoff English said the wound center project is a relevant part of the water discussion. However, he said he wanted to focus on informing the community about the projects the district is working on to make more water available.

"The challenge with Templeton is we do not have water to allocate to folks because of our limited water supply," he said.

According to a water supply sources overview report from January, the district relies on a combination of several different water sources to provide sustainable water to its current customers. Those include deep aquifer groundwater, shallow underflow from the Salinas River, and water supply augmented through treated wastewater retrieval and importation of Lake Nacimiento raw water. Currently, the district has access to a little more than 2,000 acre-feet of water per year.

"And so our community has grown exponentially. I moved here in 1990, and the whole west side has developed since the '80s. That's a significant increase in the number of residents and the demand for water," English said.

There isn't a formal moratorium on water units, but English said that approximately 119 people are on a water waiting list. Their requests for water vary, but he estimates that it totals up to more than 1,500 new water meters.

Part of the district's strategic plan approved in May is working to receive the district's full allocation of Nacimiento water, which English said includes pinpointing a location to percolate that water into the ground so it can be delivered to customers.

"So that is a significant supply that will eventually be provided to the additional folks who want water. And that's really kind of the large supply we're anticipating in 2025," he said.

The district also established its water buffer policy in 2016, which evaluates water availability and protects water supply in the event of district well failure or other possible challenges.

As part of the policy, the district has to update its water demand forecast and available supply to determine whether it's appropriate to release new water units at the beginning of each calendar year.

"As a result of some improvements that the district has made and really leveling off of demand, we anticipate that there will be water units available next year for release. A couple of dozen, according to the general manager," English said.

According to the most recent water buffer policy update adopted in January, English said, the district anticipates releasing water units to the waitlist in 2025.

The district also received a grant to help with a $6 million project that would install approximately 17,000 feet of new sewer pipelines collecting and returning all eastside wastewater to the Meadowbrook Wastewater Treatment Plant for treatment and disposal. Water from that project needs to be in the ground for a few years before it can be used, but it will increase the district's future water supply.

Former Templeton Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jessica Main said she appreciates the district's efforts, but they are a drop in the bucket.

She and other business-interested residents called in during a Dec. 1 board meeting to ask the board to work with interested community members on creative ideas to increase water supply. The board didn't respond to the public input.

"[The district] is very focused on making sure their service for the current customers is efficient, but I also don't think that they're realizing they have to strive to let more building happen to sustain current residents," Main told New Times.

Her concerns go beyond the water that's available for development. She said the district needs new development projects to ensure that it has the funds it needs to continue providing water, wastewater, fire, and recreation services. Δ

Staff Writer Karen Garcia can be reached at kgarcia@newtimesslo.com.

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