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Nacimiento reservoir low but officials say San Luis Obispo remains water-secure

County of San Luis Obispo
Nacimiento Reservoir's water capacity is at 13 percent, due to low rainfall years and continuous use of the reservoir for Salinas Valley farming.

Officials say the City of San Luis Obispo is water-secure for now, despite several years of drought conditions.

The City of San Luis Obispo relies on water from Santa Margarita Lake, Whale Rock Reservoir and Nacimiento Reservoir.

Mychal Boerman is Deputy Director of Water for the city. He said Nacimiento’s water capacity is at 13 percent, due to low rainfall years and continuous use of the reservoir for Salinas Valley farming.

Boerman said this is low compared to historical September averages, but Nacimiento is a large reservoir so, even at 13 percent, it still has more water than the other two reservoirs right now.

Boerman said even if San Luis Obispo isn’t at risk of running out of water, he always encourages the community to be mindful of usage.

“We always want to do that,” Boerman said. “It’s always important for our community because we don't know if this drought is gonna be two years or five years or ten years.”

During hot, dry months like September and October, Boerman said the city asks people to pay special attention to their irrigation systems to make sure there are no leaks that could waste water.

But he said reservoir levels are high enough right now that they’re not asking the community to let their landscaping or trees die.

“We’ve had periods of time, back during the last drought, when we had restrictions on how much you could irrigate outdoors or what days you could irrigate outdoors,” Boerman said. “We want to do those things when we have to do them.”

Boerman said there are other areas in San Luis Obispo County where water supply is lower and communities are needing to take more action.

“We’re also keenly aware that the situation is much different if you get into the north coast, Cambria,” Boerman said. “If you get into South County in Grover Beach and Pismo, you’ll see signs talking about the need to conserve water.”

Boerman said San Luis Obispo has measures in place to manage periods of extended drought.

He said the city is expanding the recycled water program, upgrading the water resource recovery facility and expanding groundwater use. He said a certain amount of water in each reservoir is also set aside as a drought buffer.

For more information about reservoir levels, stream flow and rainfall data, click here.

Rachel Showalter first joined KCBX as an intern from Cal Poly in 2017. During her time in college, she anchored and reported for Mustang News at Cal Poly's radio station, KCPR. After graduating, she took her first job as a Producer at KSBY-TV. She returned to the KCBX team in October 2020, reporting daily for KCBX News until she moved to the Pacific Northwest in July of 2022. Rachel spends her off-days climbing rocks, cooking artichokes and fighting crosswords with friends.
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