On August 27, 2013, the Board of Supervisors adopted Ordinance 3246, the Paso Robles Groundwater (PRGWB) Urgency Ordinance (Urgency Ordinance), which required a 1:1 offset for new irrigated agriculture and new development dependent on a well in the PRGWB. On October 8, 2013, the Board voted to extend the Urgency Ordinance for a total of two yeaers. The PRGWB Urgency Ordinance expired on August 27, 2015.
On March 4, 2014, the Board of Supervisors authorized the Department of Planning and Building to propose several amendments to the County General Plan and County Codes with the objective of developing a Countywide Water Conservation Program (CWWCP) that would substantially reduce groundwater extraction in groundwater basins that have been certified LOS III, provide a mechanism to allow new development and new or expanded irrigated agriculture to proceed in certified LOS III areas, and reduce the wasteful use of water in the county.
On October 27, 2015, the Board adopted Resolution 2015-288, adopting specific amendments to:
The Agriculture Element of the General Plan;
The Conservation and Open Space Element of the General Plan;
Title 8 (Health and Sanitation Code) of the County Code;
Title 19 (Building and Construction Ordinance) of the County Code;
Title 22 (Land Use Ordinance) of the County Code; and
Ordinance 3274 (County Fee Schedule)
These amendments implemented the water neutral new development and water waste prevention components of the proposed CWWCP. Adoption of the resolution also created and implemented two additional County-run programs including a Plumbing Retrofit Program and a Turf Removal Incentive Program also known as “Cash for Grass.”
The first major component of the CWWCP is Water Neutral New Development (WNND). WNND requires that all new urban and rural development and new irrigated agriculture in the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin (excluding the Atascadero Sub-basin) and all new urban and rural development in the Nipomo Mesa Water Conservation Area offset new water use at a 1:1 ratio. Offset requirements for new urban and rural development is implemented by generating credits through two primary methods: plumbing retrofits and the Cash for Grass program. The proposed offset requirements for new urban and rural development in the PRGWB would have a sunset provision upon final approval of a Groundwater Sustainability Plan(s) (GSP(s)) by a local Groundwater Sustainability Agency or Agencies (GSA(s)) covering the entirety of the PRGWB, prepared pursuant to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). WNND also requires that, in the PRGWB (excluding the Atascadero Sub-basin), all new or expanded irrigated agriculture offset new water use at a 1:1 ratio. The proposed Agricultural Offset program is an implementation tool for the WNND irrigated agriculture offset requirement, and is intended to substantially reduce increases in groundwater extraction and lowering of groundwater levels in the PRGWB (excluding the Atascadero Sub-basin) only. The proposed Agricultural Offset program has a sunset provision upon final approval of a GSP by a local GSA(s) covering the entirety of the PRGWB, prepared pursuant to SGMA.
The second major component of the overall CWWCP is the Water Waste Prevention (WWP) program. The WWP program would apply to all existing and proposed urban and rural development within the unincorporated areas of the county where a water purveyor does not already have a similar ordinance (or other comparable program) in place. Provisions to reduce agricultural water waste would be limited to clarifications of policies and implementation measures found in the Agriculture Element of the General Plan, which would include best management practices as well as implementation of an educational outreach program.