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Water rationing starts in Cambria 

Cambria’s water problems have recently intensified, prompting water use rules to kick up to another level of severity.

Cambria Community Services District (CSD) board members unanimously approved a strengthened set of water-use restrictions as part of the newly declared Stage 3 water shortage emergency condition at their Jan. 30 meeting. The mandatory conservation measures are aimed to help extend by a few months the dwindling water supply.

Effective immediately is a ban on washing down such hard surfaces as driveways, porches, sidewalks, and windows; emptying and refilling pools and spas; and washing vehicles, boats, and trailers. An existing ban on using potable water for outdoor landscapes and lawns was extended, and public restrooms closed Feb. 3.

Starting March 1, each permanent residence will be allotted two units of water per month, or four per the two-month billing cycle (one unit is 748 gallons, or 100 cubic feet). Permanent residents can apply for additional unit allotments. If a dwelling exceeds the allotment, a 500 percent surcharge will apply for the first violation, a 1,000 percent surcharge for the second, and further violations will be subject to discontinuance. Commercial users will be required to reduce use to 80 percent of their 12-month average.

The CSD is also moving forward with plans to restore two wells near Santa Rosa Creek, both of which have been inactive since a desist order from the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board to prevent further water contamination after a spill of the fuel-additive MTBE at a nearby gas station. Leaders are also looking into a portable desalination plant to treat brackish water, a long debated topic in Cambria.

The restrictions were approved at the first portion of the hours-long meeting, held at the Cambria Veterans Building where more than 100 people filled the seats, stood in the back, and spilled out into the entry lobby.

While public comment was relatively short considering the number of attendees—many of them who came to get the details for themselves and occasionally offer applause, laughter, or boos and jeers—it represented the lingering frustrations seen in past months as Cambria has struggled with a dwindling water supply.

At issue is whether the water allocations are fair or not in a town where some residents and businesses have already tightened their water use, while others haven’t. Amanda Rice, one of the district’s directors, is concerned that the across-the-board cuts are too focused on getting the desired reduction, with little consideration toward doing so equitably.

“Cutting back by a percentage penalizes people who have already been behaving correctly, and doesn’t affect people that didn’t give a crap,” Rice told New Times.

While Rice and other directors were concerned about some of the specifics, the directors approved the measures unanimously, recognizing that action must be taken in order to avert a deepening crisis.

Another special meeting will be held on Feb. 13 at 4 p.m. at the Cambria Vets Hall to continue items that were left undecided.

-- Melody DeMeritt - former city council member, Morro Bay

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