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Navigating Cambria's water crisis to avoid disaster

Jason Lopez

Cambria could run out of water as early as October. Residents are aggressively conserving, which means refraining from watering outdoor plants and flushing toilets with water in buckets placed in showers to collect greywater. 

The Cambria Community Services District is moving quickly to get an emergency water treatment facility built to extract brackish water from the San Simeon Creek aquifer, clean it and inject it back underground, where it can then be pumped to customers taps.

That project, according to Jerry Gruber, CCSD General Manager, is expected to be completed and operational by October. That is, if the necessary permits are approved quickly. Some the agencies requiring approval are the California Coastal Commission, California Fish and Game, the California Department of Public Health and the Regional Water Quality Control Board.

In an email to KCBX, Gruber stated, “The permit process will hopefully go thru smoothly unless someone chooses to appeal the permanent permit. I am hopeful that this will not happen based on the severity of the community’s water supply and the immediate need to address and resolve the matter.”

The CCSD Board has expressed grave concern over the possibility the water treatment facility won’t be constructed in time. There are few alternatives for Cambria, which counts wells as it only source of water. If the town were to run out of water in October or shortly thereafter, and if the water treatment facility were to be delayed because of permit issues, Cambria would face having the expensive solution of trucking water in to town for customers.

But Gruber said in his email, “I anticipate, based on the cooperative spirit and support that we have received from all of the state agencies, that they will do their due diligence, however they will also assist the Cambria Community Services District and CDM Smith (the District’s consultant engineering firm) in expeditiously processing our permit. These are challenging and difficult times the community is facing. The regulatory agencies have been extremely helpful with getting the project up and running.”