Water flowing over rocks

The health and prosperity of San Benito County has always depended on a reliable source of water. As a former member of the San Benito County Water District and a lifelong resident of this area, I know that developing a reliable water supply requires vision and commitment.

The construction of the Paicines Canal and Reservoir in 1913, Hernandez Reservoir in 1962, and the approval and implementation of the San Felipe Project in 1977 are examples of sound, long-rangevision and leadership. Water managers and elected officials knew that these projects were critical in protecting our local groundwater basin and providing enough water for residents and our agricultural community. The San Felipe Project brought water from the Central Valley Project into San Benito County and allowed our agricultural community to flourish.

A plan is now under way to maintain and protect our local water resources and ensure that current and future generations can continue to enjoy the high quality of life we have in the Hollister area. The Hollister Urban Area Water Project builds upon the past efforts of civic leaders to protect our groundwater basin, and make sure it is available during times of drought.

The Hollister Urban Area Water Project has been in the works for more than a decade. It is a collaborative effort by three local agencies, the San Benito County Water District, City of Hollister, and Sunnyslope County Water District, to solve a regional problem. By increasing the capacity to treat water imported from the Central Valley Project, residents throughout Hollister, including the west side of Hollister will receive higher-quality, better-tasting water.

This high-quality water will reduce the need for water softeners and it will provide better tasting water. Another important benefit is that better drinking water will also improve the quality of the wastewater discharged by our local treatment plants.

The improvement to the wastewater discharge is critical. Wastewater discharged locally is percolated back into our groundwater basin, which is naturally high in salts and minerals. By reducing the amount of salt in our wastewater it in turn protects the quality of water in our groundwater basin.Farmers, other well owners,and municipalities also utilize the groundwater basin. Protecting the quality of our groundwater is important to all water users in San Benito County.

Yet another benefit of improved wastewater is that the highly treated water can then be used as recycled water to irrigate high-value crops, instead of being discharged to percolation ponds. The use of recycled water for high-value crops is a common practice in many places, including Monterey County where it is used to irrigate thousands of acres of lettuce and strawberries. This reduces the pressure on surface and groundwater supplies and allows the beneficial reuse of a precious resource.

We rely on water every day in our lives and our livelihoods. We can never take it for granted. The Hollister Urban Area Water Plan provides the type of vision and forethought that our forefathers had when they sought to bring San Felipe Water to the community.We are now again called to make decisions with future generations in mind.Let’s step up and get this project done.

Bob Swanson
Hollister Area Rancher,
Former Director, San Benito County Water District