January 20, 2022
Final Reports
San Mateo Courts - Civil Grand Jury 1998 Final Report: Coastside County Water District
Background | Findings | Recommendations
The Coastside County Water District (CCWD) serves all of Half Moon Bay, El Granada, and Princeton. The CCWD has four water supply sources: Pilarcitos Lake, the Upper Crystal Springs Reservoir, the Pilarcitos Well Field, and the Denniston Project. The first two are owned by the San Francisco Water Department, the latter two are owned and operated by CCWD.

The Pilarcitos Well Field and the Denniston Project are a combination of water wells and stream diversions of the Pilarcitos, Denniston, and San Vicente Creeks. Both are limited by California State issued water rights licenses and permits. Yields from these two sources are extremely low in summer months and during drought years.

The San Mateo County Planning Commission administers the Local Coastal Plan (LCP). The policies of the County’s LCP govern the allowable number of priority and non-priority water connections that CCWD can make. Priority connections include visitor serving, marine related and agricultural type businesses, as well as low and moderate housing. Non-priority are all other residential connections. Water connections can be transferred from one property to another as delineated in CCWD’s General Regulations Regarding Water Service.

The following complaints were filed with the San Mateo County 1998 Grand Jury:

  • CCWD has mislead the public in the replacement project for the El Granada transmission pipeline. “Pipe leakages were fixed, then why replace the pipeline?”
  • CCWD report stated that the new pipeline will convey water to “new customers,” and on the same page states that “the project does not allow the District to issue additional water service permits.”
  • The public is being misled, because the project itself does not bring more water to the coastside, but it is clearly a sub-project of a larger project intended to increase water to the coastside.
  • CCWD’s policy concerning the transfer of water connections does not appear to be handled in an equitable manner.

CCWD had a Water Supply Evaluation Report done for calendar year 1997, the results of which were released in March of 1998. This report indicates that the Carter Hill West (12 inch) and El Granada (10 inch) transmission pipelines have two basic problems: (1) they are 48 years old and costly to maintain; and, (2) they are undersized for sustaining adequate water levels during “peak periods” at the water storage tanks into which they empty.

In response to the first problem, the Asset Depreciation Range (ADR) guideline life for transmission pipe is 50 years, making these two pipes near the end of their useful lives. This is substantiated by the number of leaks occurring annually. The decision to plan for their replacement at this time is warranted.

In response to the second problem, the engineering of transmission pipelines, bringing water into CCWD’s water storage tanks, is based on “peak periods” during the heaviest demand times of the year, which are the dry summer and fall months. Water pressure to the storage tanks must be maintained about 72 pounds per square inch (psi), preferably near 100 psi. The two transmission pipelines in question are too small for peak demand periods and are to be replaced by 10 inch pipes to better maintain steady flows to the storage tanks.

In 1984, it was determined in San Mateo County’s LCP that there was enough water available for CCWD to be allowed 3,500 water connections. That figure was divided between 2,200 connections for non-priority uses and 38% (roughly the balance) be reserved for priority uses. In July 1998, the connections reserved for priority use were changed in the LCP to 29%, providing for 308 new connections for other uses, including 89 new residential connections.

Public perception of CCWD practices with regard to water connection transfers and what constitute priority/non-priority water uses has not been favorable. When the San Mateo County 1998 Grand Jury visited the CCWD district office to obtain information regarding regulations on the transfer of water connections, it was given an outdated copy of the regulation. Also, the information obtained was found to be confusing and ambiguous. The updated regulation showed little improvement and clarity. However, it was determined that CCWD manages its resources prudently and adheres to the San Mateo County LCP regulations.

Recommendation 50: The Coastside County Water District Board should, by the start of fiscal year 1999-2000, improve their public relations and assure that the staff has current, up-to-date information available for their customers.
Recommendation 51: The Coastside County Water District Board should, by the start of fiscal year 1999-2000, improve the publication “General Regulations Regarding Water Service” by eliminating ambiguity and loop holes, e.g., define “exceptional cases” for water connection transfers, and clearly explain priority/non-priority uses. Procedures for obtaining water service could be simplified in a one page checklist format, using the booklet for more detailed information.
Recommendation 52: The Coastside County Water District Board should, by the start of fiscal year 1999-2000, develop a consistent method of allocating new users water capacity connections which does not give preferential bias to potential users.


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