San Luis Obispo passes new water use restrictions

Posted at 6:37 PM, Aug 16, 2022

The San Luis Obispo City Council passed new water restrictions at its meeting Tuesday night.

City leaders say that SLO has plenty of water for the foreseeable future, but they are being required by the state to adopt stage two drought restrictions.

“For us, we’re in a much better position than a lot of places in California. We otherwise would not have entered into our water shortage contingency plan,” said Mychal Boerman, deputy director for the city’s utility department.

The move bans outdoor watering between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Another change is that restaurants would only serve water on request.

“We’re looking at just trying to make the community aware of the need to conserve. We’re not looking at those more significant measures where we’re restricting outdoor irrigation to three days or two days a week,” Boerman added.

Officials say that San Luis Obispo’s water supply is stable with water coming from Lake Nacimiento, Santa Margarita Lake, and Whale Rock Reservoir.

“Everybody is in a drought, it’s a significant drought,” said Boerman. “We want to conserve water, but we feel like our community has paid for these water supplies over many years and we don’t want to enact measures that aren’t needed right now, so it’s important that we do what we can voluntarily.”

State leaders say they have changed their approach since the last drought. Instead of blanket water use restrictions, they are allowing local agencies to enact their own restrictions which vary to some degree based on how much water they have.

“In the last drought, the restrictions were ‘everyone had to cut back by a certain amount.’ What we learned is that it’s not the way to approach it,” said Marielle Rhodeiro, a research specialist in climate and conservation with the State Water Resources Control Board. “That’s why the governor has pushed for agencies to use their own water contingency plans because they were crafted with their communities in mind. “

Statewide, water use was down 7.7 percent in June compared to 2020 when drought conditions began to re-intensify.

The Central Coast as a whole is down 5.5 percent.

San Luis Obispo County has cut water use by 9.2 percent while Santa Barbara County is down by 3.7 percent.

The vast majority of water agencies across the Central Coast have already implemented stage two water restrictions.

The City of San Luis Obispo has set aside money for outreach and is looking at rebate programs for water conservation.