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Nipomo aims for 50 percent groundwater conservation rate after Stage IV shortage declared

Nipomo Community Services District (NCSD)
A pipeline (seen under construction here) now connects the Nipomo Community Service District (NCSD) with the City of Santa Maria. It was completed in 2015 and will help the NCSD meet its 50 percent groundwater conservation goal.

The Nipomo Community Services District (NCSD) Board passed a Stage IV Water Shortage resolution back on July 27, bringing new conservation goals into focus.

The move comes following several years of below average rainfall for the area.

District General Manager Mario Iglesias joined News Director Randol White to discuss what the declaration means for the District's customers and how the community plans to move forward.

NOTE: This transcript is from an interview that was edited for time purposes:

Randol White: Mario, let's talk about what a Stage IV is exactly. What does it mean to declare that?

Mario Iglesias: As you alluded to, there are multiple stages. There are a total of five stages and each one of the stages is directed and targeted to meet the conditions of the groundwater basin.

White: And is it "I" being least severe, "V" being the worst?

Iglesias: Correct. Right now, Stage IV means that you're going to look at Stage I, II and III of course. And then you're going to look to see, well we have a conservation objective. All these conservation objectives are targeted to save the water basin, that's the health of the basin below that we draw from. So, Stage IV really says you can take measures if you aren't meeting your conservation objective. The conservation objective under Stage IV for the Nipomo Mesa Management Area and therefore the District, is to reduce our groundwater pumping by 50 percent.

White: Five-zero?

Iglesias: Five-zero.

White: Up until this point, what sort of conservation levels has the District been meeting?

Iglesias: We have to be clear here because groundwater and conservation, those are two different numbers here for the District. Why? Because the District has a supplemental water project they completed in 2015, July. Now, we have this ability to bring in, import water to sustain the community, but also to make up for and help us achieve that 50 percent goal. Prior to that pipeline, the District has saved, conservation, anywhere from 28 to 39 percent month by month. So, you add in that added water that we brought in, 650 acre feet, and all of a sudden we're at 46 percent groundwater pumping reduction.

White: And that water comes from Santa Maria?

Iglesias: That is correct. We do import that water from Santa Maria and we're all part of one basin.

White: So now under this Stage IV goal you want to push that up to 50 percent. What means will you use to get there.

Iglesias: Yes, we're really excited about this portion because last year was our first year for the supplemental water project. We brought in about 652 acre feet of water. Our commitment now for the July 2016 to June 2017 period, we'll be bringing in a minimum of 800 acre feet. So, we've done the calculations and we're able to take the last year's consumption and behaviors of our community exercise and lay them over on that next period, add that extra import water up to 800, we're only short about 14 acre feet. So, with a little bit of effort from the community and possibly turning up the knob on our import water just slightly, we'll meet that number with little problem.

White: How much are you allowed to turn up that knob. I imagine the residents of Santa Maria and the District might have some concern when it comes to that.

Iglesias: Of course. Whenever we talk about water, we're always talking about something that concerns us all, especially at five years of drought. The District has got a contract with the City of Santa Maria and we're all sharing this basin.

White: Do you have a worst case scenario in place?

Iglesias: The State just came out with that self-certification process and what they asked each water provider to do is take the last three years of drought and lay them into the future three years out, and then tell us what your conservation levels should be, if you want to self certify. So, we've taken that view and where we find ourselves is that we have adequate water to meet those three years.