County policies lead to failing wells


By on Wed, August 5, 2009

Paul Perkovic is MWSD Board President but his letter expresses his individual opinion, not official Board or District policy. He’s running for re-election this year. Coastsider welcomes letters from all candidates for public office on the Coastside.

The risks resulting from San Mateo County allowing private wells without adequate groundwater studies are highlighted in the article “Midcoast water policies blamed for failing well” in last week’s Half Moon Bay Review and Pescadero Pebble.

Montara Water and Sanitary District, not the County, initiated Local Coastal Program changes to give existing homes priority for new public water connections when their wells fail. Coastal Commission action on that LCP amendment has been postponed again. Meanwhile, rather than moving other existing homes with wells to public water supplies before their wells fail, the County wants to reserve priority water for even more “affordable housing” – beyond the hundreds of units already proposed – before allowing new connections.

Contrary to the claim in the HMB Review article, MWSD has never “bailed out a private household well.” MWSD has operated the Montara / Moss Beach water system only since August 2003, during which time the District has developed a major new source of low-cost, high-quality drinking water, among many other improvements. The Review’s reporter asked me about an alleged case from the early 1990s, but that would have been considered by the California Public Utilities Commission regarding the prior corporate owner of the Montara water system, Citizens Utilities Company of California. I explained that I did not know the details of any exceptions to the moratorium considered by the CPUC.

Public water wells, as opposed to wells for single-family homes, must go through extensive environmental studies and monitoring to ensure they do not have adverse impacts. I support development of a groundwater management plan for the Midcoast that would determine safe yields from each of our many Coastal aquifers as a pre-requisite for permitting further private wells. As indicated in the recent Kleinfelder report to the Board of Supervisors, the cumulative effects of the County’s current policy could leave many homeowners with private wells in the same situation as the family in your article, if aquifers are overdrawn during an extended drought. The County has not studied the interactions of many wells in close proximity.

MWSD is working to bring existing well-based homeowners onto the public water system as soon as possible. Everyone in our community should enjoy adequate supplies of safe, reliable, high-quality water sufficient to meet their needs.