Your Subtitle text

Water Issues

 Water Supply and Demand

In order to discuss Cambria’s water supply and demand situation rationally it is imperative that the numbers regarding water supply and demand are factual, consistent, and presented to citizens in a public setting.  Language for these discussions should be easy to understand and numbers should be presented in a way that can be easily calculated and compared.

Underestimating the amount of inexpensive groundwater available to residents and overestimating the future demand for water is an equation that has led to false assumptions, doomsday scenarios and irrational conversations resulting in gridlock. While groundwater depletion is a serious issue worldwide, fanning the flames of “fire” by describing  emergency water scenarios that threaten the very lives of an aging population is not helpful in any public discussion of water in Cambria.


In a 2010 report An Investigation of the Marginal Cost of Seawater Desalination in California, independent environmental scientist James Fryer explains  "The realistic costs of seawater desalination need to be more transparent and understood by the public. Proponents of seawater desalination projects should clearly delineate the costs of the projects in the categories identified in this paper.  Also the costs of emerging water management alternatives such as gray water use, and rainwater water capturing, low-impact development and integrated watershed and floodplain management practices should be better evaluated for identifying the most cost-effective options for improved water management in California."

NEW! 2012 Fryer Report “A Review of Water Use & Water Management Alternatives in Cambria, California” by James Fryer analyzes both historic and current water use records specifically for the town of Cambria.   Comparing costs to produce equivalent water supplies through seawater desalination at other facilities is an important tool is assessing realistic costs local planners will encounter. This comparison suggests that water produced by seawater desalination in Cambria will be two to three times more expensive than the costs presently identified by CCSD.   Re-examining long term solutions in light of realistic cost estimates provides a framework for judging costs for alternatives such as conservation and recycling. Further analysis of regional solutions, conservation, recycling and storage alternatives will profit from the information obtained by Mr. Fryer.

 Fryer asks questions, offers some useful definitions of terms and provides footnotes.  Please do read the report itself to follow his sources for his reporting and our estimates of the true costs of desalination as compared to alternatives. 

Please see our more detailed page about the true costs of desalination for Cambria.


One of the biggest concerns for Cambrians is whether unregulated growth and an apparently endless water supply will encourage development beyond what can be reasonably sustained by the ecosystems of Cambria and its surrounds. 

Because there is a great deal of pro-growth coverage available in the main newspapers serving our area, as well as on the Cambria Community Services district website, this site will make available those documents and analysis which have been less visible to the public eye until now.  

The citizens of Cambria Water Watch support controlled growth that fits within the ecological footprint of this region as the most appropriate choice to preserve our natural resources, scenic vistas, and the special character of our village environment.

Please see our more detailed page about the Build Out Reduction plan for Cambria

Please see our more detailed page about growth and Measure P in Cambria


 Environmental Issues 

The tiny village of Cambria (Pop. 6,032)  is blessed with the distinction of  being nestled inside an environmentally sensitive habitat area due to its rare Monterey Pine Forest.  An endangered Steelhead Creek runs thru it, and the beautiful blue Pacific Ocean, home to California Sea Otters and a thriving Elephant Seal population that draws over  500,000 tourists from all over the world each year, shelters Cambria with unparalleled natural beauty. 

Any new water supply in Cambria will encourage growth.  This growth can negatively affect sensitive ecosystems such as the one in and around Cambria.  We protect tourism and business by protecting our wildlife in order not to destroy the economic foundation of the coastal communities based on viewing seals, otters, whales, birds and all the other natural beauties of the Central Coast. The impact of growth on the environment is an issue that must be addressed in detail, with policies and plans in place before any new water supply is implemented in Cambria. 

 Public Policy

Cambria does not live in isolation even though it seems like its own little paradise on the coast.  Like every ecosystem, Cambria is part of a larger whole.  Choices we make about water will impact communities such as Morro Bay, Cayucos, San Simeon and those from elsewhere who travel here to work or play.  Plans for up to 26 desalination plants statewide loom large on the Pacific Ocean horizon with Carslbad leading the way.  (See Desalination With A Grain of Salt page 12)

Granting categorical exclusions to laws intended to protect the California coast from over-zealous development is not good business either fiscally nor environmentally.  Not allowing citizens to vote for a project that may cost Cambrians $58 million is certainly not good public policy. Cambrians treasure their environmentally precious piece of coastal paradise and need to demand that laws be enforced appropriately - not twisted beyond all recognition for the sake of profits that benefit only a few while damaging the rights of many.


Conservation is fiscally & environmentally conservative. Cambrians are to be applauded for reducing water consumption from 95 GPD (gallons per person per day) over the past few years. Cambria’s most urgent need for water is in the dry summer months, when rainfall is lowest and water storage is insufficient.   Because it is estimated that 40% of our precious water resource is being used for watering lawns in the summertime, Cambria still has room for conservation and water tanks could easily be added to augment supply.  Indeed, Cambria could be marketed worldwide as a classic example of water wise resourcefulness.

In addition to conservation, alternatives to desalination listed in Cambria’s Water Master Plan need to be revisited thru an objective lens that accurately weighs cost, environmental factors, water storage needed and reservoir options.  Enhancement of watersheds through development of stock ponds, purchase of developable land within the watershed, watershed re-vegetation, development of watershed management plans, and off-stream storage of winter flow for use in the dry season must first be in place before costly and energy intensive desalination is considered.

It only makes sense to take these conservative measures first.


Home         Water Issues       Basic Facts        What You Can Do       More Information        Site Map