PASO ROBLES — The Paso Robles City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to remove water conservation mandates in the city, moving from a Level 2 condition, which requires that residents follow conservation measures, to a Level 1 condition which asks them to voluntarily comply.
“The drought has officially been declared over,” Public Works Director Dick McKinley said. “The emergency conservation targets have been lifted, but wasting water is still prohibited, things like watering right after rain and things like that remain in the rules.”
The conservation measures were put in place in June of 2015, not because Paso Robles didn’t have enough water, but because the measures were mandated at the state level, McKinley said.
“But since that time, we’ve saved a billion and a half gallons of water usage,” he said. “We’ve done well and the people are to be commended — they truly stepped up, they didn’t have to be forced.”
McKinley said that the city is on track to meet long-term conservation goals set by the statewide Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and has eliminated summer time water shortage issues with the addition of water from the Nacimiento Pipeline Project, but he also made it clear that we’re not out of the woods yet as far as the drought goes.
“All of the lakes look full, but that doesn’ tmean that all of the underground aquifers are full. It’s certainly better than it has been for the last five years, but we still have issues,” he said. “Our real reason for lifting (the restirctions) is because of the wet year we had as far as the winter goes, but technically when you get into a deep drought it takes several years before you really get back up and out of where we were.”
Restrictions put into place under the Level 2 condition including three-day per week watering, prohibitions on watering between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m., prohibitions on excessive water runoff and a ban on washing paved surfaces will be lifted effective May 1.
Rebate programs for residents to get refunds on the installation of water-saving appliances and equipment will remain in place.
McKinley said that even with the restrictions lifted, he doesn’t expect residents to “go crazy and do a lot of watering.”
“If we get six, eight months down the raod and things are not looking good, we’ll come back to (the council) if we have issues, but I don’t expect that,” he said. “The people of Paso Robles have proven themselves to be highly responsible.”
One resident, Karl Hansen, spoke against lifting the restrictions.
“I think until we get the aquifers up to 1965 levels, we should take all of our city water out of Lake Nacimiento and put in solar cells to provide the electricity, becuase the electricity is the highest cost of maintaining the pumping, so until then I would stay with stage 2,” he said.