Water Rationing & the Pebble Beach Lots

Two years from now, will you have enough water to take a shower, wash your clothes or flush your toilet? Maybe not if you live on the Monterey Peninsula.Parched Earth

The State Water Resources Control Board has ordered a 70 percent cut in pumping from the Carmel River, the source of most of our water. We have been given an ultimatum. Find a new water source or face deep rationing after 2016. Make no mistake. This will impose genuine hardship. Residents may be required to get by on a mere 35 percent of current use.(1) This will be particularly grim since per capita water use on the Monterey Peninsula is already the lowest in the state.

In the face of the looming water crisis, Pebble Beach Company has embarked upon a $200 million development project in the Del Monte Forest. The project includes a new 100 room hotel and spa at Spyglass Hill, another 100 new rooms at the Spanish Bay Inn and the Pebble Beach Lodge, a new conference center, 90 new residential lots, a new driving range, an equestrian center re-do, and a 24 unit low-income apartment complex.

Under rationing, where will water for this development come from? It will displace an equivalent supply for existing users, exacerbating the severity of rationing, according to the project’s EIR. Withdrawals from the Carmel River averaged about 11,000 acre feet per year from 1995 through 2010. After 2016 a mere 3,376 acre feet per year will be allowed. This remnant must be shared among existing and new waters users. (1)

For more than a decade, the Monterey Peninsula has been under a strict moratorium on new development and remodels requiring water. Many residents who merely want to add a bathroom have been out of luck. In this climate, how did PBC obtain permission for massive development? The company possesses a finite water entitlement acquired in return for constructing water reclamation infrastructure to irrigate its golf courses, in part, with reclaimed water.

Thus PBC is entitled to a share of the water supply for new development in the Del Monte Forest even if it displaces existing users and exacerbates rationing. Though the water entitlements would allow buyers to construct homes on the 90 new estate lots being developed by PBC, the home’s occupants would be subject to the deep rationing beginning in 2017 if a new water supply is not found.(1)

Will new water be found before rationing is imposed? The answer is uncertain. A proposal to build a desalination plant is under consideration. However, it has not obtained final approval let alone been constructed. Even if the plant is brought on-line in time to stave off rationing, rates will skyrocket as desalinated water is extremely expensive to produce.

Either way Peninsula residents face an unpleasant scenario: exorbitant water rates or a radical degradation of lifestyle. The severe water supply restrictions pit the interests of developers and the hospitality industry against those of residents.

(1) Pebble Beach Company Project Draft Environmental Impact Report, November 2011, Section 3.12 Water Supply and Demand