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One hundred per cent of the water used in Borrego Springs, California is drawn from the Borrego Valley Aquifer beneath the valley floor. This incredible resource has been in a state of unsustainable overdraft for more than 60 years almost entirely due to the demands of agriculture which uses 70% of the water and golf courses which use another 20%. Only 10% is consumed by residential users and that is well within the annual natural recharge rate of the aquifer. The most recent and best documented study of the Borrego basin by scientists from the California Department of Water Resources and the U. S. Geological Survey estimates that at current rates of withdrawal the water that remains in the aquifer will last no more than fifty years. Despite millions of dollars spent on repeated - if half-hearted, ill-considered and badly managed - efforts over many years to address the overdraft, the Borrego Water District has been completely ineffective in doing so. As a result, the situation grows more critical every day and the community of Borrego Springs, California continues down a fast-track to oblivion.
Depth to groundwater varies throughout the Borrego Valley, but generally water is found deeper in the northern part of the valley where agriculture is located and closer to the ground surface in the middle part of the valley. In the southwestern part of the valley (near Tubb Canyon) and farther south and up slope toward Yaqui Pass, groundwater again becomes deeper. DWR is working on an extensive hydrograph set that plots depth to groundwater from land surface across the valley using data collected over the past three years, but it is not yet complete. The first hydrograph (slide 6) in a DWR PowerPoint presentation to the Borrego Water District Town Hall Meeting in March 2012 is based on prelminary interpretations of data from the recent study and shows both depth from land surface to groundwater (the scale on the right) and groundwater elevation (the scale on the left).
Groundwater levels in Borrego Valley were originally monitored by the USGS as far back as the 1940s and have been steadily declining since 1945, indicating a long-term overdraft condition. The County of San Diego began collecting groundwater level data in the early 1980s. According to the USGS between 1945 and 1980 water levels declined by as much as 100 feet due to more water being extracted than was being replenished. To provide an understanding of water level trends since the 1980s, water levels from eight wells monitored by the County are summarized in the table below.
San Diego County General Plan Update
Groundwater Study April, 2010
Appendix A - Groundwater in Borrego Valley (Figure 3)
The volume of groundwater in storage is thought to decrease with depth in the Borrego Valley; so basin-wide rates of water level decline will increase over time with ongoing groundwater mining, even if there is no increase in demand.
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