Are We Still Experiencing a Water Code Section 350 Emergency?

At last week’s CCSD meeting, I made a formal request that the Board review and reconsider the need for and appropriateness of the Water Code Section  350 emergency declaration at a public hearing. Below is the letter I will be sending as a followup to the Board. What do you think?

I am writing this letter to follow up on the request I made during the public comment period at the August 20, 2009 regular meeting of the Cambria Community Services District.

During those comments, I made a formal request that the CCSD Board review and reconsider the need for and appropriateness of the Water Code Section  350 emergency declaration at a public hearing.

It’s been 2,856 days since CCSD’s board declared a water emergency under California Water Code Section 350.

That state law allows  water agencies “may declare a water shortage emergency condition to prevail within the area served by such distributor whenever it finds and determines that the ordinary demands and requirements of water consumers cannot be satisfied without depleting the water supply of the distributor to the extent that there would be insufficient water for human consumption, sanitation, and fire protection.”

It goes on to provide additional powers and responsibilities:

  • “it shall thereupon adopt such regulations and restrictions on the delivery of water and the consumption within said area of water supplied for public use as will in the sound discretion of such governing body conserve the water supply for the greatest public benefit with  particular regard to domestic use, sanitation, and fire protection.”
  • “The regulations and restrictions shall thereafter be and remain in full force and effect during the period of the emergency and until the supply of water available for distribution within such area has been replenished or augmented.”
  • “The regulations and restrictions may include the right to deny applications for new or additional service connections, and provision for their enforcement by discontinuing service to consumers willfully violating the regulations and  restrictions.”

It was October 25, 2001 was the last time CCSD issued an intent to serve letter for a new home.

Since declaring the water shortage emergency, the district has taken numerous actions that affect the water supply availability:

  • developed and approved a water master plan.
  • had a change of 3 board members.
  • increased storage capacity for fire from 1 million to 1.7 million gallons, an amount that minimizes the chance of service interruption in case the need for fire suppression is coincident with an accident-like the recent Cornwall/Sheffield break.
  • increased the water pressure 250 percent to provide adequate flow for firefighting.
  • implemented a retrofit rebate program for low-flow toilets and washers that is about to lose funding (almost 300 washer rebates issued to date).
  • Reduced the number of potential through promotion of lot mergers and conservation easements.
  • attempted (unsuccessfully) to adjudicate the San Simeon basin with  those with senior water rights.
  • analyzed alternative sources for additional water and approved taking action to build a desalination plant .
  • installed new electronic meters  for almost all customers to reduce water losses from over 12% to about 8%.

In addition to the actions cited above and other Board policy decisions and actions, standards for water efficiency in new construction (both indoor & outdoor use) combined with the county policy and ordinances limiting the rate of growth to less than 2.3% of current housing units county-wide (limited to 1% in Cambria until 2006, 0% through June 2012) protect our water supply from depletion due to new connections that may be permitted over the next 10 years.

We have a wonderful town here and could find ourselves in the expensive and awkward position of defending policies that are outdated, inconsistent or without firm footing.

I am requesting that discussion of reconsideration of the State Water Code 350 emergency declaration be placed on the CCSD Board Agenda without delay.  After eight years and many improvements in our water system and demand management, such a discussion seems a valuable use of the Board’s time and energy.

If the Executive Committee declines to schedule this discussion on the agenda for full Board discussion, I ask to be provided the specific reasons for declining the request, in writing.


Amanda C. Rice

Cambria Homeowner


Tammy Rudock, CCSD General Manager

Bruce Gibson, Chair, SLO County Board of Supervisors

Paul Hood, Executive Officer, SLO Local Agency Formation Commission

Charles Lester, Central Coast Senior Deputy Director, California Coastal Commission

Lois Capps, Congresswoman California’s 23rd District



Last 5 posts by Amanda Rice

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4 Responses to Are We Still Experiencing a Water Code Section 350 Emergency?

  1. Will Washburn says:

    Bravo Amanda! You have provided the basis for a lively discussion over just what constitutes a water “emergency”. This subject deserves much more inspection. Just as important, we still don’t have any CCSD response about the financial details for the desal plant that we all want to hear. The real emergency is getting public input into how best to fund the new desal plant. Will we again have to wait for only one public forum (like the last “Town Hall” meeting on the subject) to gloss over the FINAL version of the CCSD approved Financial Plan? American principles of fairness and transparency demand more from our CCSD Board of Directors. When will they begin these discussions with the public? Why must they all be conducted behind closed doors?

  2. Deryl Robinson says:

    This should be good.

  3. Gregg Berge says:

    Amanda and Deryl:

    With the board resolutions and the CCSD implementation of the urban and water master plans (what) as part of the proposed new water source (desalinization) now imbedded in the intergrated county water master plan; along with the certification of the LCP update by the California Coastal Commission, the need for the CCSD to hide behind a trumped up Section 350 Declaration is moot.

    The die is cast in Cambria. We know the (why). The remaining questions are (who) are going to pay for all those pocket parks (vacant lots). The (when) is going to be very, very soon.

    If I was a Cambria resident, I might just want to know answers to these important questions of fact from those powers that be.

  4. Deryl Robinson says:

    Thanks Amanda for your challenge to CCSD on this matter. Of course I agree with you, but must remind that the Coastal Commission will be the decider on this. It’s going to take a lot to convince them that CCSD now has enough water to grant permits.
    As long as we have to deal with the Commission, what we need is more water supply and lot reduction.

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