PT. REYES (KPIX) — Water is in short supply everywhere, but in Pt. Reyes Station in West Marin County, the water they do have is becoming increasingly salty. Now, some residents are having to tote their water home by hand.
About 1,800 residents living in or near Pt. Reyes Station are being warned not to drink or cook with tap water because of elevated levels of salt. It doesn’t come as a surprise to those who have been living with it for a year now.
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“Last year I started drinking the water, not knowing it was salty,” said resident Peggy Day. “The more I drank, the thirstier I got. And so, that’s when I started looking into this.”
“It’s nasty,” said Ella Vonins. “I mean, if you’ve tasted the saline content from last year you’d know that you can’t just drink that water.”
Vonins is on a salt-restricted diet for health reasons, so is getting fresh water from a filling station set up Tuesday by the North Marin Water District. There, residents can fill gallon jugs full of low-sodium water.
The problem lies in two wells at the former Coast Guard Station which have become increasingly affected by tidal flows from the sea. The district’s Water Quality Supervisor Pablo Ramudo said decreased flows of fresh water from steams and the underground water table, and increased pressure from sea level rise is causing brackish water to back up to the two public wells.
“Over the decades and years we’ve seen salinity intrusion worsen,” said Ramudo. “And in the last five years, it’s been 50-60 percent worse than the year before, for several consecutive years.”
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The sodium content is now 20 times what it was just 5 years ago. But there is a solution, or at least, there could be. The district has another well higher up at the Gallagher Ranch site and would like to drill a second one that could be used when salinity increases farther down the hill.
But Ken Levin, President of the Pt. Reyes Village Association, said one resident keeps filing appeals to stop the process.
“The appeal’s been denied three times already and the person who’s appealing is going for a fourth try,” he said. “I thought it was ‘three strikes and you’re out’ but I guess he doesn’t think so.”
Levin says it’s been frustrating and he hopes the Coastal Commission will give the go-ahead at its next meeting to finally drill the new well. That way, his neighbors won’t have to carry their water home one gallon at a time.
“They had a remedy all prepared,” said Peggy Day, shaking her head. “And then because of one citizen — one citizen — the rest of us, a thousand of us, have to come out and tote our water.”
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The water district says it is ready to drill the new well as soon as it gets approval to do so. They say it could be in operation by the beginning of the “dry” season next July.