Springs that supply the state historical monument are running at just one-sixth normal, said Nick Franco, superintendent of the San Luis Obispo Coast District of State Parks. Only 47,000 gallons a day now flow from the springs, which State Parks shares with the Hearst Ranch, down from a normal of 285,000 gallons a day in a normal year.
That means a trio of reservoirs that typically are filled with 2.75 million gallons of water this time of year are only about a third full, not enough to carry the Castle through the summer.
So it doesn’t make any sense to keep topping off the iconic, but leaky, outdoor Neptune Pool, which loses 3,000 to 5,000 gallons of water a day through several cracks. The pool was started in the 1920s and underwent a couple of revisions not long after.
State Parks is putting the 345,000 gallons of water that were in the pool to good use. Connections have been made to the irrigation system and, last Friday, water started flowing out of the pool and onto the landscape.
How long it takes to empty the 95-by-104-foot, marble-lined basin that’s as much as 10 feet deep depends on how much irrigation is needed, Franco said. On Monday, he estimated the pool was down 5 or 6 feet.
“You know the statue of Venus in the back with her rising out of the water?” he asked. “Well, she’s not in the water anymore.”
Also dry and quiet are the Castle’s six fountains, which usually provide an ambient sound of tinkling water for garden strollers. “They splash, lose water, not a lot,” Franco said. “But we want to save every drop we can.”
They’re also “doing triage on the perennials,” Franco said, “figuring out what can survive with very little water and what won’t, focusing on the landscape, how we can nurse it along.”
Usually this time of year State Parks brings in “thousands of annuals,” Franco said. Not this year. And they’re putting mulch on the landscaping to conserve as much water as possible.