GSD to stop selling bulk water; exceptions may be granted following inspections

Sandy Feretto

Redwood Times

Garberville Sanitary District had a special board meeting on Dec. 3 to discuss the State Water Resources Control Board Division of Water Right’s draft order to cease and desist selling appropriated water in bulk sales outside of the district’s permitted place of use. (See Redwood Times Nov. 27.)

GSD projects manager Jennie Short recommended that the board vote to cease all bulk water sales effective Jan. 1, 2013 except in cases where the district has determined the bulk water customer could be eligible for emergency domestic water.

Short said that the water board did not want to leave people high and dry if they really had an emergency domestic need for water so they would allow GSD to continue serving water to those people for a period of time on a site by site basis.

Short said, "They want it to be where we say, based on your circumstances we think that you need to rectify this situation within two years or three years or five years, depending on the situation. And they will say, ‘okay, we think that’s reasonable.’"

Short said each person would have to come into the GSD office and explain their circumstances; that there is a house, how many people live there, what their needs are, what time of year they need the water, what other source of water they have and how long it will take for them to rectify the situation.

Short said that in her correspondence with the water board she had suggested using the state water board’s definition of domestic use to define emergency need. John O’Hagan, of DWR enforcement responded to Short with an email that detailed a more limited and narrow interpretation of emergency domestic use, defined as essential uses necessary to sustain animal and human life and for the water necessary for sanitation.

O’Hagan’s letter states that the water board’s intention in providing an exception for bulk water sales for emergency domestic use is a limited and narrow exception available only in temporary circumstances where such deliveries are required for essential health and safety uses.

O’Hagan’s email said that it was the understanding of the water board that the county required that a reliable water source must be demonstrated prior to authorizing residential construction and there should be few needs for water from bulk sales for new construction.

Short said at the meeting that she was not even considering new construction, but that there are existing situations that GSD must help to rectify.

O’Hagan’s letter states that GSD should review each request for water service by bulk water. It states that a current emergency domestic water supply shortage can and should be corrected with a legal water supply within a reasonable time period. "By the draft CDO, GSD is responsible to monitor these deliveries to ensure that the violation of its place of use service area will be discontinued in the near future." O’Hagan’s letter said.

The water board said GSD must review each request and make sure that there is a plan in place to remedy the problem.

Short said that she and business manager, Tina Stillwell, are putting together a request form and information will be collected by staff to present to the state water board.

Then initial inspection of each site requesting bulk water will be made by staff to confirm that there is a residence and that there is some other water supply. The applicants will be given a period of time and if they don’t comply the district will be forced to stop allowing deliveries, Short said.

Regarding the Tobin Well, which had been considered as an alternative supply for bulk water, Short said that the financial investment to investigate whether the well is hydrologically connected to the river, as required by the state water board, is too great for the district to undertake.

The district board voted to follow staff recommendation to stop selling bulk water on Jan. 1, 2013 except in cases of emergency.

Short also reported that the district had submitted the petition for change in place of use, the petition for extension of time, the required fees for the processing of the petitions to the state water board as requested.

It was also reported that the 2010 and 2011 annual permit and license water use reports have been submitted as requested.


On another agenda item the board revised the annexation project description of the Southern Humboldt Community Park service connection as multi-family, not single family residential, in accordance with a district ordinance.

Board election process

Two district board seats are open.

Business manager Tina Stillwell reported that she had contacted the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors to ask if people interested in filling the vacant district board seats who live outside the district are eligible. The reply she received indicated that there was not a provision that would allow the board of supervisors to waive the residency requirement, however Stillwell said it appears that there is a government code that would.

Stillwell said she would contact the authorities to clarify the legal terms and find out exactly what the rules of eligibility are for candidates for seats on the district governing board.

The next regular GSD meeting will be on Jan. 22 at 5 p.m. at the district office in Garberville.