March 24, 2023
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Editorial: Lawsuits could derail Paso water fix


As the Business Times was going to press Nov. 26, two lawsuits were filed against county leaders in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court over the emergency pumping restrictions put on the Paso Robles groundwater basin.

Depending on whether and how the county government elects to fight back against the suits, the legal actions could lead to what’s known as adjudication, in which courts oversee how water rights are allocated in the basin. This happened in Santa Maria, with proceedings dragging out over a decade and costs topping $11 million. It is undesirable.

The lawsuits come as two groups, one consisting of rural homeowners whose wells are running dry and one consisting of agricultural operations looking for predictable water policy, were hammering out a deal. The going was slow and tough, but we were hopeful about progress.

And now two mysterious new groups, whose origins and backers are largely unknown, have entered the fray, possibly deploying the equivalent of a nuclear option.

We reiterate our belief that the best solution is one brokered between local stakeholders and the county without the involvement of the state legislature or the courts.