Article title: In Cambria, rift over water treatment plant is a drain on parched town

“In Cambria, the water shortage is particularly acute because its 6,000 residents get all of their supply from two shrinking local creeks. To prevent the creeks from going dry, the Cambria Community Services District is building a controversial treatment plant to essentially make the town's water go further.”

I find this article interesting in several ways. First, because it relates to the continuing drought in California. Many of our water system clients are facing similar water shortage issues. This is especially true of smaller system operators. If, as many experts predict, the drought continues, we will all find ourselves looking at new ways to conserve. We may also need to look to alternative sources such as rainwater collection (yes, it still rains in droughts, just not as much or as frequently), utilizing gray water systems (laundry to lawn—or better yet, get rid of the lawn and do laundry to garden), and improving our sources to the extent we can.

“Over the last year, Cambria embarked on a massive civic effort to reduce water consumption, and it succeeded: Water use dropped 40%.”

Water conservation is one of my personal memories of Cambria. My grandparents (who were Okie immigrants to Bakersfield) had a second home in Cambria during the time I grew up. Many a holiday and summer weekend was had there. I loved the scenic beauty of the place. Water was a limited resource in the community in the 1980s and 90s and conservation was practiced by most residents, drought or not. I learned from my grandmother that the wash water was to be saved in tubs and put on the plants outside. Showers were short and water was turned off during lathering. Tooth brushing was done with the faucet off. If it was yellow, it was left to mellow. When necessary, plants were watered by hand. In short, I learned early on that water doesn’t come from faucets and is certainly not limitless in supply, even in the best of times. Grandma’s methods are employed in my home today and have been taught to my daughter (although the short shower is a struggle).

The fact that Cambrians have been able to cut already low water use by 40 percent speaks volumes to their diligence. But it still has not alleviated the need for additional sources of water. Unfortunately, development of new sources generally leads to controversy.

“"Our opponents have always used water as a weapon to stop growth," said Greg Hunter, a group [Cambrians for Water] founder. "But the problem is they've also stopped us from developing a reliable and sustainable water source that will take our residents and businesses through drought periods."”

The final point about this article relates to controversy over how to best balance water supplies and the ever-present fear of growth. Cambria has always been a water-short community. Despite that, controversy has never allowed the water system to expand potential sources of water. Residents fear that growth in their communities will alter the community’s characteristics that they so love. This is a common thread in many of California’s communities.

As we continue to serve our clients’ water system needs, new ways of looking at existing resources is required. We must ensure that projects going forward respond to potential realities associated with climate change so they result in longer-lived systems and more climate resilient communities. Unfortunately, public controversy is likely to become worse than ever based partly on varying opinions to the source of climate change. This Cambria story will likely play out across the state should the drought continue.