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Arroyo Grande urges conservation after county passes plan to cut reservoir deliveries 

San Luis Obispo County is officially in a state of "extreme drought," prompting authorities to urge water conservation across the region and try to keep more water in local reservoirs.

The county Board of Supervisors declared a local drought emergency in June 2021, two months before the U.S. Drought Monitor slapped the "extreme" tag on SLO. The county's answer to beating the heat? The Low Reservoir Response Plan (LRRP).

click to enlarge RESERVOIR RESILIENCE Arroyo Grande buckles up to save water in Lopez Lake through conservation. - PHOTO BY ALEX ZUNIGA
  • Photo By Alex Zuniga
  • RESERVOIR RESILIENCE Arroyo Grande buckles up to save water in Lopez Lake through conservation.

During its Aug. 24 meeting, the board approved the plan, which was developed by an advisory committee during the last drought. The committee's goal was to preserve water bodies for as long as possible, since Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, Pismo Beach, Oceano, and Avila Beach depend on Lopez Lake for drinking water.

"Arroyo Grande, specifically, has a water conservation program that they've kept going since the last drought," county Public Works Deputy Director Kate Ballantyne said.

As one of the water contractors involved in the LRRP, Arroyo Grande (and others) agreed to take a 10 percent reduction from Lopez when its capacity hits a certain level to help keep water in the lake for another three to four years.

"We don't want a reduction, but we have to because the lake is dropping and that's prescribed by the LRRP to try and help the lake keep as much water in it," said Shane Taylor, the city Public Works Department's utility manager who presented an update to Arroyo Grande City Council on Aug. 24.

Taylor told New Times that Lopez sits at about 32 percent capacity right now—or a little less than 16,364 acre-feet of water. The LRRP will go into effect once Lopez reaches the trigger point of 15,000 acre-feet or less. Ballantyne said that the county anticipates this happening at the beginning of October. But Taylor thinks it could happen much sooner.

"We're probably going to have reduced delivery, maybe even today. But I haven't heard from the county yet," he said on Aug. 25.

A 10 percent water supply reduction for Arroyo Grande means losing out on what Taylor quantified as "150 gallons per minute" or 216,000 gallons a day. Though reluctant about the change, the city sees it as a necessity to stretch out a nonrenewable resource.

Arroyo Grande isn't alone. All regions that depend on Lopez will be taking a water delivery hit.

With the California State Water Project only allotting 5 percent of its water deliveries this year, Gov. Gavin Newsom urged residents to reduce water use by 15 percent this summer.

Taylor also urged Arroyo Grande residents (from individuals to commercial irrigation) to cut back. This is why the city plans to implement a Stage 1 water shortage emergency, which allows the city to mandate reductions in water use. The Arroyo Grande City Council will consider the matter on Sept. 28.

"They're all [residents] affected, some more than others. Some might not even have to do anything because they are already using very little water. But we have to prescribe percentage reductions," he said.

The county plans to help regions touched by drought through regular check-ins and mass drought awareness education. Ballantyne mentioned the drought task force led by the county Office of Emergency Services, which keeps track of communities like Arroyo Grande. Its water conservation media campaigns can help cities with public messaging.

"We need everyone to do their part to save as much water as possible until we get rain. Watch your irrigation, only water when necessary, cut back on irrigation of your lawn, cut back on showers, only full loads of laundry, fix all the leaks in your house, just be conscious of your usage," Taylor said. Δ

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