Virginia Graziani

Redwood Times

Bulk sales of water to points outside Garberville Sanitary District’s boundaries must end within the next few weeks, according to a draft Cease and Desist Order (CDO) from the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) to GSD.

Property owners who rely on water from bulk water providers need to write to GSD explaining why they need to have water delivered in order for the district to successfully petition for continuation of bulk water sales, said GSD capital projects manager Jennie Short.

The draft CDO, dated Nov. 20 and received by GSD the following day, was issued following citizen complaints about both bulk water sales and residential connections outside district boundaries.

GSD must petition SWRCB within 20 days from Nov. 21 for a hearing before the SWRCB to expand the boundaries of its place of use if the district intends to continue serving water outside its boundaries, according to a cover letter signed by James W. Kessel, acting deputy director of the California Division of Water Rights (DWR).

Additionally, the CDO and its cover letter state that GSD is in violation of state water codes because it has failed to file annual use reports for the years 2010 and 2011, in spite of several notices that the reports were due.

Kessel’s letter stated that GSD must submit the use reports online “immediately” and must “diligently pursue the processing of its petitions for change in place of use.”

The CDO cites the history of GSD, which purchased the privately-owned Garberville Water Company in 2004 and adopted the same boundaries as the water company, which held the original license.

Even when it was privately owned, the water company’s licensed place of use was officially described as “Town of Garberville as bounded by Garberville Sanitary District.” Licensed purpose of use was described as “municipal use.”

These boundaries and use are still in effect under GSD’s current permit and license. The permit, which establishes GSD’s rights to water from the South Fork Eel River, up to a maximum of 0.595 cubic feet per second, not to exceed 430 acre-feet per year.

The license allows the district to develop an intake in the river and to serve water to its customers. The license limits the amount that can actually be taken under rights granted by permit based on historic amounts of water diverted for “reasonable and beneficial use,” which may be considerably less than water rights in the permit. Since 1995 GSD’s license allows the district to take only 0.155 cubic feet per second.

The only exception to the law restricting water sales to the “licensed and permitted place of use” - GSD’s current boundaries - is if “it is demonstrated to the satisfaction of the State Water Board that the water is needed for emergency domestic water supply.”

The CDO notes that GSD’s response to the original complaint included a letter from the district’s largest bulk water customer, Pura Vida Water Delivery.

Pura Vida’s letter does not indicate whether the company keeps records of the purpose of the delivery or the location of the deliveries.

According to state water codes, the use of water must occur not only within the licensed place of use but also must be “reasonable and beneficial.” The regulations do not specify what is meant by “reasonable and beneficial,” but the original license issued to the Garberville Water Company indicates that it will serve “366 residences, equal to 1,400 people...” and that “zero acres per year will be irrigated under the water right.”

Short emphasized that irrigation refers to any kind of crop, legal or illegal. Households currently receiving water outside the district may use that water for regular household needs only but not, for example, for growing vegetables for sale at market.

Bulk water customers should send a letter or email to GSD that includes their name and physical address, number of water users (including pets and livestock) in their household, and a description of why the cessation of bulk water delivery would create an emergency. 

If these property owners have another water source, they should describe the source and explain why they need bulk water in addition; for example, if the source has been failing in the dry season. If the need is seasonal, the approximate time span should be stated.

Residences with existing connections outside the district, such as those in the Connick Creek and Kimtu subdivisions, are proposed for annexation to GSD, which should help GSD petition for change in place of use to cover existing connected services.

As for the missing water use reports, GSD business manager Tina Stillwell said on Wednesday, Nov. 21 that she expected to have them ready to submit by the end of the day.

GSD’s Nov. 27 board meeting was cancelled on Monday before staff received the draft CDO. Short explained that the meeting was cancelled because the last board meeting had occurred only two weeks earlier on Nov. 14.

At that time the board had given staff enough direction for them to pursue changes to the drinking water treatment project. (See related story in our Nov. 13 issue.) “Changing the course of this project is going to take time,” Short said.

The next board meeting will be scheduled for mid-December in time to meet the deadline for submitting the CDO petition, Short added.

The time and date will be announced on GSD’s website, www.garbervillesd.org, and a sign will be placed on the office door in Garberville. As always, members of the public are welcome to attend and time will be made available for comment.

Short stressed the need for property owners who depend on bulk water delivery to come forward, preferably in writing, to Garberville Sanitary District, 919 Melville Drive, Garberville 95542. Emails should be addressed to info@garbervillesd.org. If you have questions, call them at 923-9566 during business hours, Monday through Thursday.

Complete board packets will be available online within three days before the meeting.