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Water wise or water lies

Local elected officials need to do what should be done for conservation's sake

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It’s my opinion that someone in this county is lying about our water woes. I’m educated, intelligent, and have common sense. And because of that, I can’t wrap my brain around all the booming new housing developments in this county—specifically, multifamily units and vacation rentals.

You build them; they will come. And you invite them here for a vacation; they will pay dearly, and by gosh, they will use as much water as they want. And, if they live in a multifamily unit, they don’t usually have separate water meters, therefore, use as much water as desired.

Several weeks ago, I watched an Arroyo Grande City Council meeting (Aug. 23) and was intrigued by the discussion of water issues. As we all know, the entire state of California is in a severe drought situation, which is evident in the fires that have destroyed thousands of acres of land and hundreds of homes and buildings.

The entire conversation was between council members, the city attorney, the mayor, the public, and staff about conservation of water in our county, including these items:

• Water restriction revisions/governor’s mandated reduction.

• Penalties for repeat violators/flagrant abusers.

• Customers who consistently pay $500 monthly water bills because they can afford to—so they obviously don’t care about conservation, screw the rest of you little guys.

• Continuation of development vs. stalling projects and enforcing a moratorium.

• Projects stalled because of a moratorium.

• Water conservation programs discontinued because of funding.

• Lake Lopez water levels/hoping for rain this winter.

• Saltwater intrusion into the groundwater basin is possible.

• Quality of life: water issues are a current threat to health and safety of public.

• Water demands: projects in the “pipeline” and building in progress.

• Moratoriums: findings must be made, and they are very difficult to quantify. 

• Putting the discussion on a future agenda.

Now here, I’m thinking, why should this be discussed at a future meeting?  This is the meeting, and the subject you’re currently discussing is what to do about water issues.

I won’t ramble, because you can go and watch the entire meeting yourself online. However, I’m concerned that the subject of a moratorium on building, brought up by Councilmember Tim Brown, was basically shut down with the lame answer that more data needs to be collected, presented, and discussed.

As a current and longtime resident of San Luis Obispo County, I wonder how many studies need to be done before we admit that all of the many new commercial and residential buildings are detrimental to our water issues. More people equals more water use. 

My husband and I have always been water conservative. We grew up in the desert, and water conservation was a necessity. Most of us had desert-landscaped yards and used our backyard swimming pools to keep cool and clean—yes, chlorine!

We refused to purchase a ridiculously priced home on the Central Coast, therefore, we live in an apartment complex (yes, it’s our choice). We do not pay extra for water, although our rent continues to increase every two years. It’s a total misconception that our water is “free.” 

We can hear our neighbors taking 30-minute showers. And we see three to four people living in one-bedroom apartments. It takes at least eight minutes to get hot water out of the faucets, and the dishwashers are so inadequate, that we’re forced to wash dishes by hand twice a day, which uses more water. 

As renters, the majority of us feels that we are already being gouged by the outrageous rents in this area, and therefore, we will use what we pay for—
as much water as we want!

The landscaping of our complex is beautiful—fruit trees, grass, and other water-demanding plants. The nearby parks are well taken care of, as are the baseball/football fields. There’s no conservation going on here in Arroyo Grande, at least not by the city. So does that mean, do as we say, not as we do?

I will say, however, there are concerned and committed homeowners who have let their landscaped yards go without water. And there are others who don’t care about the high cost of water or the fines. Perhaps they feel the problem is not their responsibility? If I were a homeowner around here, I’d be heartsick if I had to let my yard and plants die, especially if others were not doing the same. And if I read about one more winery moving into the area, I’d be furious, as I am when I read about Laetitia Vineyard and Winery parceling out to build hundreds of homes.

We like to drive around the Five Cities area on weekends and observe what’s going on in our community. What we see is “the haves” and “the have nots.” Oh yes, I’m still talking about water here.  

Because we live in an agricultural area, I understand the need for the farmers to have additional water rights. However, I don’t understand how a farmer right in the heart of AG can water hundreds of acres during the hottest time of the day. Another example of “in your face,” we were here first.

In summary, yes, we’re all hoping for more rain, but without it, the local decision makers had better summon up some courage and stop selling out to their campaign contributors, developers, and the “good ol’ boy” network. Kudos to Tim Brown for having the common sense and honesty to speak up and encourage a moratorium on building. The rest of the council members better step up and be sensible. 

Anna Deitch conserves water from her apartment in Arroyo Grande. Send comments through the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com or write a letter to the editor at letters@newtimesslo.com.

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