Council members raise concerns over equity concept, oppose document’s consideration in the GSP update

PASO ROBLES — The City Council rejected a proposed Statement of Equity for the Paso Basin Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) during the Tuesday, June 20, meeting.

Following the meeting’s opening presentations, council convened as the City of Paso Robles Groundwater Sustainability Agency Board to receive a “proposed Statement of Equity and consider incorporating principles stated therein, in coordination with the other GSAs, into the next update of the Paso Basin Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP),” as described in staff’s agenda.

SLO County District 2 Supervisor Bruce Gibson presented the proposed Statement of Equity, a statement of which council members were not supportive of.


“I am very suspicious of any concept of the word equity,” said District 2 Councilman Chris Bausch. “It [speaks] socialism to me.”

In 2014, California enacted the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), mandating local management of groundwater through GSAs and GSPs. The Paso Robles GSA and three other agencies formed the Paso Basin GSAs to cover the entire basin. They adopted a GSP in 2022 and plan to update it by 2025. The Paso Basin Cooperative Committee (PBCC) unanimously agreed to consider incorporating a Statement of Equity into the GSP, which would influence future management actions and projects.

The council’s GSP happened to be approved on Tuesday and was developed with the help of SLO County Supervisors Debbie Arnold and John Peschong. The GSAs are now focused on implementing the GSP, including bringing supplemental water to the basin and reducing groundwater pumping. Potential water sources considered are recycled wastewater, turn-back-pool water, State Water Project, and the Salinas Dam expansion. 

According to Gibson and the staff’s report, PBCC members agreed that groundwater in the basin is a shared resource for all basin users and to ensure “equity” or “fairness” should also be a part of the GSP. On April 26, PBCC members voted unanimously to consider incorporating the concept of fairness with the proposed Statement of Equity into the next GSP update.

However, council was not convinced to follow through with the statement.

“I find it suspicious and I’m very concerned that the two people in the supervisorial role that helped bring this [GSP] up to where it got to have been replaced by Mr. Gibson, no disrespect, and then he provides a document like this to us two months after he was in office after we have been working with these folks for years,” said District 3 Councilman Steve Gregory. “And that just sends alarms off all over the place with me. The language, the way it is being done. I think it has worked so well to date that this is an unnecessary document to even consider in my opinion … I am vehemently against this, and I do not support looking at this document or considering [it].”

Gregory felt there was not enough transparency in creating the statement. His concerns were shared with Distric 1 Councilman John Hamon, who requested city staff to get involved to bring a different statement forward with more clarity around the word equity.

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, July 18, at 6:30 p.m.