Montara and Moss Beach homeowners with wells have no other options

Posted by on Mon, September 3, 2007

There has been a moratorium on new connections to the Montara Water and Sanitary District Water supply since 1975. Those building new homes since then have had to dig their own wells on their own property to get access to water.  The problem is that everyone—including MWSD—is drawing water from the same aquifer.

Julia Scott of the County Times interviewed one family whose well is running dry. They want to move, but they can’t get water and can’t sell their house.

"We’re just stuck," Gary said. "We have this incredible burden on us that we can’t get rid of. They tell me that even if the house was condemned, they wouldn’t give us a hookup. One more hookup wouldn’t tax the system that much more."
"Our concern is that we’re all drilling in and getting water from the same area. It’s like straws in a big milkshake: We suck out water, and they suck out water — it seems to us that there’s going to be a diminished resource," [MWSD General Manager George] Irving said.
The unincorporated Midcoast is one of the fastest-growing areas of San Mateo County. A master plan for the area, approved in draft form by the Board of Supervisors in October 2006, allows for the construction of 7,153 new homes in the next 30 years — roughly doubling the current population.

MWSD gets all its water from local wells. El Granada and Half Moon Bay get their water from the County Coastside Water District, where you can get a water hookup (if you have tens of thousands of dollars) because they’re buying their water from the SF Public Utilities Commission, which gets its water from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir [Wikipedia] at Yosemite.

Comment 1
Tue, September 4, 2007 1:29pm
Barb Mauz
All my comments

So, where is the wisdom in San Mateo County’s plan in their fraudulent “LCP Updte” to DOUBLE the population in the Mid-Coast and allow people to build over-sized structures on the multitude of Antiquated 25’ Sub-Standard Lots in the Mid-Coast that are not even included in County’s old, over-estimated LCP Buildout Numbers upon which they erroneously based all of their over-assumptions for how many additional houses, people, cars & out-of-scale water/sewer infrastructure, water supply additions, urbanized park/rec. facilities & school expansions they would LIKE to shove into the Mid-Coast which is Semi-Rural and in a Coastal Zone?

Ask that the Coastal Commission REMOVE County’s jurisdiction of the Mid-Coast’s LCP, “LCP Update”, General Plan, Land Use Plan, Zoning Regs.,Design Review Standards, Housing Element - Chapt 14 “Affordable Housing”, EVERYTHING and, to discontinue their CDP Permitting Powers and put them into the hands of Coastal Commission Legal & Planning Staff, NOW!

Barb Mauz

Under California Law, don’t the real estate agents and the seller have to disclose that no hookups to the public water system are available and therefore if the well fails, the property may be declared uninhabitable?  If this disclosure wasn’t done, isn’t there a legal case against the above parties?

Some years back, while he was still on the Midcoast Community Council, David Spiselman pointed across the street from his house in Montara where a test well was being drilled and he said to me “That’s really stupid—if the well fails they’re going to be in big trouble.”  That was the first or one of the first private wells in the non-rural portion of Montara.

Comment 3
Tue, September 4, 2007 4:08pm
Steven Hyman
All my comments

Its really too bad that both water companies that supply the coast don’t have adequate supply to meet the needs of the public.  But that’s the way it is and that’s mostly likely the way it will remain. That’s also why water wells started being drilled here in the mid 1980’s.

Its interesting in that water output from wells varies so much throughout the coast. Alsace Lorraine and Miramar have very strong wells.  The wells in El Granada are better in the lower parts than in the hills.  Moss Beach is kind of hit or miss.  Montara by and large has good wells.

Well production can vary by a lot over a small distance.  I sold a large lot on Etheldore that got 6-7 gpm yet I know of a home around 1/4 mile away on the same street that doesn’t even get 1 gpm. Go figure.

Well production can also vary over time.  When a well is tested,  its a snapshot at that point in time.  Nobody can predict the future.  Same as if you saw your doctor and he told you that you are healthy.  2 years later you have cancer.  Things change.

I’ve only seen a handful of wells perform poorly and most of them were suspect to begin with.

Steven Hyman

Leonard Woren wrote:
Under California Law, don’t the real estate agents and the seller have to disclose that no hookups to the public water system are available and therefore if the well fails, the property may be declared uninhabitable?

Can anyone verify if this is the case?

Comment 5
Tue, September 4, 2007 6:13pm
Carl May
All my comments

With apologies to any who have previously seen this message sent in response to a private e-mail.

Could it be any plainer? Montara and Moss Beach are overpopulated in terms of water supply. Long has it been so. But consider this: a community is not properly served with water if it cannot meet minimal needs for health and safety in the *leanest* water years, not just the generally average years during which most recent shortages have been experienced. So MMB should be using water availability during the drought years of the mid-to-late 70’s or even drier times for its baseline and incorporating that into community planning (not just water/sanitary district planning). Water is just one of the basic resources and ecosystem services that should have been assessed quantitatively as the initial process in revising the county’s LCP for our area, but it makes a pretty good subject for focus.

I do feel compassion for people like the Skowrons. After all, the house they bought had a well that had been approved by the county. It is only natural for newcomers to an area to assume government is operating with some authority and expertise and that government approval provides a level of assurance. But we all know how it really works. Local developers/builders own the county’s allegiance and have the county bending over backwards to find ways to let them do what they want to do. It is a roundabout gift to the builders to allow every house that squeaks through a one-time 2.5 gpm well test into the already oversubscribed water system on an emergency basis when the well fails. Let the county truck water from Planning Department faucets in Redwood City to these people if it cannot act responsibly in dealing with our local resources.

Carl May

Comment 6
Wed, September 5, 2007 9:19am
Steven Hyman
All my comments

I can’t speak for all Realtors but I tell prospective buyers of either vacant lots or homes about the community water or sewer system in the respective towns.  All I can tell them about what is the case today. Nobody can make any guarantees about what ordinances any particular city or county will make in the future.

As far as what county would consider uninhabitable,  I would venture to say that depends on the individual circumstances and probably varies by town and county throughout the state.

Very, very few wells have failed throughout the 20 year history of drilling in the HMB-Montara area. But, of course wells can fail.  The bigger question is what would happen if MSD’s well failed or had a significant drop in production and what would they do for the residents they serve.

Steven Hyman

Comment 7
Tue, September 18, 2007 1:00pm
All my comments

The point is that adding wells indiscriminately to an already overpopulated area will INEVITABLY create a problem and jeopardize the MWSD capacity. GREED AND ACCOUNTABILITY need to be addressed.  Can we find a way to organize and approach the press for assistance in exposing this abuse?  Consumers and homeowners should be protected.

Sharon Dove