This week’s reporting by Nick Preciado brought to mind the passage by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, “Water, water, everywhere, and all the boards did shrink; Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.” The winter storms that raged earlier this year brought much needed rain to the region. Water levels are up at some area reservoirs and a proposal for a new $800 million dam that would make the Pacheco Reservoir 25 times bigger and ease droughts and floods is currently being discussed at the Santa Clara Valley Water District. The reservoir, which also serves San Benito County but is located in neighboring Santa Clara County, currently holds 6,000 acre feet of water and would increase to 141,600 acre feet once the huge project is complete. In San Juan Bautista, city staff says groundwater levels are doing well and flowing artesian wells have popped up around several private wells, while in Hollister, a new water treatment plant that aims to improve water quality for residents in the central and western parts of the city is expected to go into operation next month.
It appears the county’s water woes seem to be subsiding. However, high nitrate levels in San Juan Bautista continue to be a problem for the city’s residents and hard water requires many county households to install expensive softening equipment on their properties. New construction in Hollister and an ambitious proposal to bring Formula One racing to a 550-acre ranch just outside San Juan Bautista put these issues in stark relief. How can the county with its well-loved countryside and historic towns grow to its full potential with an infrastructure that is barely keeping pace? People visiting the region often wonder why there is so little large-scale development as the potential seems so vast. Yet it’s the residents who know that to grow in a sustainable fashion, it will take more than a wing and a prayer.