Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Despite heavy lobbying by California American Water Co., chambers of commerce, the local realtor and hospitality associations, and a bus-load of Monterey Peninsula residents fearing the loss of their daily showers, on Oct. 20 the state Water Resources Control Board approved a cease-and-desist order directing Cal Am to stop illegal overpumping from the Carmel River and Seaside Aquifer.
The order requires Cal Am to scale down its river diversions by 5 percent, or 549 acre-feet, this year, followed by annual reductions until diversions are within the legal limit. The deadline to achieve compliance is Dec. 31, 2016.
Other elements include programs to re-tool the water distribution system, impose a moratorium on new water connection permits, and reduce the use of potable water for irrigation. Pebble Beach Co. scored a victory when the water board agreed to exempt it from the moratorium; several hundred PBC properties have existing water rights.
Locals speaking against the order included Monterey County Supervisor Dave Potter, Pacific Grove Mayor Carmelita Garcia, Monterey Mayor Chuck Della Sala and Sen. Abel Maldonado. Representatives of several environmental groups, including the Carmel River Steelhead Association, urged the board to adopt the order.
Although the Cal Am-supported Our Water, Our Lives coalition has framed the cease-and-desist order as a draconian "water grab," it's much milder than a draft version released in January 2008, which directed Cal Am to reduce its river diversions by 15 percent for two years and end illegal overpumping within five years.
The themes, however, are the same: Cal Am needs to develop a new water source. And locals need to conserve more water.