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Digger - August 27, 2022

Highlights of recent articles about or related to groundwater in the Borrego Valley of California and efforts to manage it - or not.

For previous years click here.

Borrego Sun 10/27/2022

With Whom Do We Share our Water p. 5

Describes a proposed $10 Mil, 3-year study by the Tubb Canyon Desert Conservancy, U. C. Irvine, and the San Diego Natural History Museum Dept. of Botany to identify, assess, and monitor potential groundwater dependent ecosystems (GDEs) in the Borrego Basin. The first phase of the study will determine whether or not the mesquite bosque near the Borrego Sink is dependent on groundwater for survival. If it is, it will qualify as a Beneficial User of groundwater and must be considered when allocating the safe yield of the aquifer under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. Borrego's current Ground Water Management Plan assumes that it is not, but there is no scientific evidence to support that assumption. Mark Jorgenson, former ABDSP Superintendent and Community Representative to the WaterMaster Board, has long contended that the bosque and its associated flora and fauna are groundwater dependent.

The study was one of 7 proposals out of 15 submitted to receive funding from BWD's nearly $6.2 mil. award from the California Department of Water Resources.

Letters to the Editor, p. 6

Two letters One from County Supervisor Jim Desmond, one about water:

"An Ounce of Prevention..." Points out the lack of publicly available information about the negative effect of California's severe drought on recharge of Borrego's aquifer and plans, if any, to deal with it. (For the full text of this letter click here.)

Borrego Sun 10/13/2022

Letters to the Editor, p. 6

Two letters (usual suspects). None about water.

$6.1 M Grant from DWR to Support Local Water Projects p. 7

The BWD board is considering a grant agreement with the California Department of Water Resources to assist in financing projects associated with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Grant Program. The board is also considering a Subgrantee Agreement with Local Project Sponsors, including the Watermaster, for reimbursement of their projects in the Borrego Sub Basin associated with the program and to ensure their compliance with terms of the BWD-DWR grant agreement and other obligations. Final approval of the Agreements is expected in November and the funds must be expended by March 2025.

Borrego Sun 09/29/2022

Letters to the Editor, p. 6

Two letters (usual suspects). None about water.

BWD to Consider Water Supply Policy p.7

After a pilot program that sold six-acre feet of water to new single-family residences and the Borrego Health heliport, each of which will use less than 1 acre foot per year, BWD intends to establish a 3-year program to ensure that small residential and commercial development can continue while a water market is developed to accommodate the district's 4 to 1 mitigation requirement. Under the program, BWD will sell up to 72-acre feet of its Baseline Pumping Allocation to new developments at a price calculated to cover all costs of the program. The funds received will be held and used to purchase additional water rights as needed.

Borrego Sun 09/15/2022

Letters to the Editor, p. 6

Three letters. None about water.

$3M+ BWD Water Grant, p. 2

The Borrego Water District recently entered into a final agreement with the State of California for 100% State financing, amounting to $2,048,362 to replace aging infrastructure. The low bid for the project was $2,866,086, and the State has indicated that additional funding is available to cover the increased cost.

Borrego Sun 09/01/2022

Letters to the Editor, p. 6

Two letters. None about water.

Meter Reading and Billing Systems at BWD p. 7

In early 2021 the Borrego Water District began to use a new cell phone-based meter reading and payment processing system. That system has been integrated into the billing system to allow a seamless transfer of data and BWD is also switching to a new online bill pay service that provides customers with more detailed information about their accounts and water use.

Borrego Sun 08/18/2022

Letters to the Editor, p. 6

Three letters. None about water.

Visit from Issa Staff p. 7

On 5 August Congressman Darrell Issa's Legislative Director visited Borrego Springs for an update on the current water situation. BWD provided Issa' representative with an update on the status of the basin and the Water District's short and long-term needs which include extensive pipeline repair and replacement. Issa is proposing the projects for a direct appropriation.

DWR Launches New Web-based Mapping Tool p. 14

The California Groundwater Projects Tool was developed by the California Department of Water Resources to better understand the state's critical groundwater supply and address the effects of California's changing climate and severe drought. It contains a database of nearly 3,000 projects in the state to protect groundwater resources and is intended for anyone interested in learning about state and local investments in groundwater sustainability.

Groundwater accounts for 40% of California's water supply in a normal year and up to 60% during dry years. Nearly 85% of state residents rely on groundwater for at least some portion of their water. The untoward results of decades of over-pumping ground water basins are being exacerbated by climate change and prolonged extreme drought.

The California Department of Water Resources and State Water Resources Control Board have launched a new Dry Well Sustainability Tool to identify groundwater basins state-wide where domestic water wells may go dry. Residents should submit reports of failing wells to and contact their county's Office of Emergency Services to request state funding.

Borrego Sun 08/04/2022

Letters to the Editor, p. 6

Three letters. None about water.

Tank Replacement Process Begins, p. 7

BWD has received more than $2 mil. in funding to replace four water tanks: the Twin Tanks, Indian Head Tank, and Rams Hill #2 Tank. All of them have exceeded their calculated useful life. BWD is currently accepting bids for the projects which are scheduled to be opened in late August.

Borrego Sun 07/07/2022

Letters to the Editor, p. 6

Four letters. None about water.

Anza Borrego Foundation - Borrego Water District, p. 7

The Anza Borrego (ABF) Foundation recently purchased 160 acres of surplus land located off Borrego Springs Rd. near Glorietta Canyon from BWD. In so doing, they ensured public access to a beautiful area of the Anza Borrego Desert State Park within ten minutes of downtown Borrego Springs that could otherwise have been denied. ABF is also considering for purchase other parcels of land owned by BWD near Ocotillo Wells and Indian Head Ranch as well as developable parcels within Borrego Springs.

Grant Funding Available, Water Infrastructure and Resilience Projects, p. 137

The California Department of Water Resources has released application guidelines for a $193,000 in grants to help local agencies advance water infrastructure and resilience projects such as desalinization, waste water treatment, water conservation, and groundwater recharge as California faces a fourth year of drought.

The grants are funded by Proposition 1 (Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014) and will finance projects to improve water supply reliability and water quality, increase water storage, reduce fire risk, respond to challenges posed by climate change and drought, and benefit disadvantaged communities. Funding will be awarded in two phases, one in August 2022 and another in February 2023. More information is available on the Implementation Grant Program website.

Borrego Sun 06/23/2022

Sycuan Donates to Bighorn Sheep Conservation Fund, p. 3

The Anza-Borrego Foundation received $25,000 donation from Sycuan Casino and Resort start-up money for a Peninsular Bighorn Sheep Conservation Fund to address the many challenges presented by the severe drought, climate change, and habitat loss within the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park that encompasses more than 50% of the bighorn sheep habitat. Last year water was provided for sheep where wildlife guzzlers had not been refilled by rainfall because of the drought, but that program has been threatened by the Park's Environmental Scientist (see the letter to the Editor below.

Letters to the Editor, p. 6

Five letters. One about water (sort of):

"Editorial Thanks"

Thanks the Borrego Sun for an editorial (What are they afraid of? p. 6) in the previous issue (June 9) of the paper that addressed an issue arising from management of the bighorn sheep in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, specifically continuation of the effort to supply supplemental water to the sheep during the prolonged drought that the Park's Environmental Scientist has deemed too expensive and likely to support "an artificial population of sheep."

BWD Computer Systems Tested by DHS, p. 7

The Borrego Water District brought in a team of experts from the Department of Homeland Security to test the security of its computer systems and received "excellent marks" from the experts who were unable to break into the system.

Borrego Sun 06/09/2022

Letters to the Editor, p. 6

Two letters (usual suspects). None about water.

BWD Update p. 7

In response to California's prolonged drought the State Water Resources Control Board has approved an Emergency Regulation to protect dwindling supplies of water in the Sate and Federal Reservoirs. All urban suppliers of water, those with more than 3,000 customers or delivering more than 3,000 acre feet of water per year, must comply. BWD does not reach either threshold and, moreover, is in a "continuous drought response mode" and must reduce its pumping by 75% before 2040 to comply with State law. The new regulation prohibits the use of potable water for irrigation of "Non-functional turf" at commercial, industrial, and institutional sites, and restricts landscape irrigation. Violators may be fined up to $500 for each day on which a violation occurs. BWD staff recommend that BWD not enforce these recommendations "for technical reasons," but encourage conservation on the future.

Community Input Invited on Proposed Dollar General Store, La Casa Del Zorro Solar Project p. 5

Tucked in at the end of this report on a meeting of the Borrego Springs Community Sponsor Group without preamble or context is one sentence about water: "John Peterson, Chair of the Borrego Springs Community Sponsor Group Water and Land Use Subcommittee, continues to emphasize the lack of good data on groundwater levels in the northern half of the Basin."

Borrego Sun 05/26/2022

Letters to the Editor, p. 6

Three letters. None about water.

BWD Receives Grant for Water Tanks, p. 7

BWD is considering a final agreement with "the California Water Boards" for grant funding to replace four aging water tanks and one emergency diesel engine that does not comply with emissions limits at a combined price of $2.1 mil. BWD is eligible for 100% funding.

Two of the tanks are located near the State Park offices and were inadvertently not sited on land owned by BWD when built. That discrepancy will be corrected when one new tank providing similar capacity replaces them.

The other two tanks are at Rams Hill and Indian Head. The diesel engine to be replaced is at the Wilcox well.

Completion of all projects is expected by late 2024.



Borrego Sun 05/12/2022

DWR Awards $150 M, p. 1

To boost water supply reliability, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) awarded $150 mil. made possible by $171 mil. in the Budget Act of 2021 to 20 regional groundwater agencies managing critically over drafted groundwater basins in California. The funds will support projects to improve water efficiency, increase groundwater recharge, develop alternative water supplies, and install monitoring wells. BWD received $6,173,833 of the $150 mil. in the first round of awards. A second round of funding in the fall of 2022 will distribute an additional $200 mil. and BWD is eligible to apply for a share of that as well.

Tubb Canyon, $1 mil. DWR Funding, p. 1

Tubb Canyon Desert Conservancy's three-year proposal to identify, assess, and monitor groundwater dependent ecosystems in the Borrego sub-basin is included in BWD's nearly $6.2 mil. award from DWR (see above). TCDC will partner with UC Irvine's Dept. of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the San Diego Natural History Museum's Dept. of Botany in a project to determine the impacts of the drawdown of the Borrego aquifer on the flora and fauna of the Borrego Valley. The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 requires that Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems (GDE's) be taken into account when Groundwater Management Plans are implemented. Of particular interest in this regard is Borrego's mesquite bosque, which may or may not be groundwater dependent.

Letters to the Editor, p. 6

Four letters. None about water.

Water for Small Developments Considered, p. 7

BWD will consider making water service available to residential and commercial projects and projects with a public benefit that have an estimated water supply demand of less than 1 acre foot per year. A total of 72 acre feet of water will be made available over nine years at the rate of 8 acre feet per year through 2031. There is a non-refundable $200 application fee and the cost of water supplied under the program will be $9,419 per acre foot subject to change at BWD's discretion. Applications will be accepted starting 1 July 2022.



Borrego Sun 04/28/2022

Impacts of Climate Change Not Debatable, p. 1

An interview with Mark Jorgensen retired Superintendent of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

Jorgensen is worried less about the causes of climate change than about dealing with its impacts, and believes that man has contributed to those impacts, e.g., places where there has previously been water that are now dry, once healthy cactus and ocotillo forests that are withering, declines in the few wetlands in the ABDSP and with that the diverse fauna that rely on them. He cited numerous examples of human activities that have caused harm including building roads that cut-off access to springs and introduction of livestock that compete with wildlife for available water and caused the number of bighorn sheep to plummet.

The bighorn sheep population in ABDSP has recovered thanks to installation of wildlife guzzlers in the 1980s and now numbers about 900 animals. The guzzlers catch and store rainwater to provide a water source for wildlife during the summer. But when there is little rain the guzzler's tanks are empty and there is no water for wildlife. According to Jorgensen, without human intervention "to fix what humans did starting with the gold rush" the sheep population will surely dwindle. But getting water to the remote guzzlers is an expensive proposition and has sparked push-back from some in the State Park's administration who question the cost/benefits ratio of doing so.

Jorgenson offered no solution for the global impacts of climate change, but believes that Borrego Springs needs to recognize reality and focus on reducing water use because it relies on a sole-source aquifer for its water.

Letters to the Editor, p. 6

Four letters. None about water.

Town Hall to be Held in the Fall, p. 7

The BWD board has decided to delay BWD's 2022 Town Hall meeting, normally held in the Spring, until the Fall when a majority of residents are in town. Topics under consideration include: projects funded by the State's Prop. 68 grant, BWD projects/finances, and Watermaster related issues. More details to follow.



Borrego Sun 04/14/2022

Opinion: Rumor vs. Fact, p. 1

An article by Nikki Symington, a Borrego Sun reporter, ostensibly about the important role of a community newspaper in providing vetted, factual information to community members to combat rumor, hearsay, conspiracy theories, and other sorts of misinformation that often circulate unchecked. Despite its intended purpose and ambiguous title, it contains nuggets of information pertinent to unfounded rumors, hearsay, conspiracy theories and other misinformation circulating in Borrego Springs about tanker trucks drawing water from a BWD well:

The article concludes by reminding residents of Borrego Springs that they may attend Water Board meetings, ask questions, explain their concerns, or even express a desire to have the contract canceled. [It is worth noting, however, that these are rights precious few Borregans have ever exercised.]

Letters to the Editor, p. 6

Four letters. One about water.

Construction water Followup, p. 7

Ocotillo Solar, LLC will pay $9.81 per unit of water (1 Unit = 1 HCF = 748 G), "the highest approved rate," for all water taken from a BWD well plus a $28,000 one-time payment. Between now and 2040 BWD must purchase 950 acre-feet of water per year to meet existing customer demand. BWD staff proposes that income from the sale of water to Ocotillo Solar, LLC be added to funds generated by the newly created Tier 3 water rate specifically intended to help fund water rights acquisition.



Borrego Sun 03/31/2022

Letters to the Editor, p. 6

Four letters: One about water.

Christmas Circle Proposal, p. 6

A letter from Jim Wilson, President, Christmas Circle Park Board of Directors, explaining why the Park withdrew its application for Proposition 68 funds to upgrade its irrigation system and reduce water consumption. After submitting its application, the Park Board was informed that the Project Review Committee was using a list of criteria that were ill-suited to and disadvantaged the Park's application with no means provided "to rectify the grading method," so the Park Board elected not to participate. The Park's application was one of only five that would have reduced water consumption. The list of approved projects includes no water use reduction programs.

Borrego Water District, San Diego Gas & Electric, p. 7

BWD and SDG&E are working to provide potable water to the latter's Borrego Springs Green Hydrogen Project to support grid reliability and help power the community during emergencies. BWD will provide an 8-inch pipe from Palm Canyon Dr. north for one mile along Borrego Valley Road to the SDG&E sub-station/solar farm along with a one-inch pipe to serve 1 acre-foot of water per year. In 2020 the BWD board approved a reimbursement agreement with SDG&E for project costs and SDG&E has deposited 50% of the estimated cost of the project with BWD.



Borrego Sun 03/17/2022

Proposition 68: $7.6 Million, p. 1

Despite tensions over scoring and sharing the funds, a total of $5,481,090 of the $7.6 million in Proposition 68 funds was allocated. The balance will be awarded "in about one months' time."

Letters to the Editor, p. 6

Five letters. None about water.

Thanks from BWD, p. 7

BWD submitted a grant application for almost $6 million from Proposition 68 funds. Due to some last-minute project eliminations by DWR the final project list and overall grant amounts "were not what were expected." The overall amount is less than the $7.6 million available due to the limited time allowed to resubmit the project list to DWR.



Borrego Sun 03/03/2022

Letters to the Editor, p. 6

Two letters. None about water.

Borrego Water District Audit Accepted, p. 7

The District's financial statements were found to be "free from material misstatements."



Borrego Sun 02/17/2022

Why Are Strangers Trucking Our Water, p. 1

Water trucks filling at a BWD well near Borrego Springs Rd. and Anza Dr. raised concerns among residents. Upon investigating, the Borrego Sun learned that 40-acre feet of water had been purchased from BWD in 2015 by the Gildred Company for development of a solar farm in the Ocotillo Wells area at a cost of $4,300 per acre foot or a total of nearly $200,000 if all the water is used. In addition, Gildred promised to fallow 8 acres of citrus to comply with the County's mitigation policy and donate 300 acres of land to the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

The project was delayed until 2019, when the developer was ready to begin construction. The then president of the BWD board, Kathy Dice, noted that a previous board had made an agreement to sell the water before passage of the California Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 and adoption of the Groundwater Management Plan for the Borrego Basin, but the District was still obligated to honor the contract. In the interim, 2015-2019, however, the fallowing of 8 acres of citrus, donation to the school district, and contribution of land to the State Park disappeared from the discussion. Dice, therefore, reminded Gildred, now known as Ocotillo Solar, LLC, that they still needed to transfer 300+ acres of land to the State Park or Federal Bureau of Reclamation.

BWD's General Manager, Geoff Poole, addressed concerns about selling scarce water for use outside the District by pointing out that the 40-acre feet sold to Ocotillo Solar amounted to only 2% of the District's annual water use.

$10 Million Water Grant Raises Proposals and Tempers, p. 1

Of the 13 applications for Proposition 68 funds submitted, 7 survived the first cut for $7.6 million grants. The entities submitting 3 of the successful proposals hope to receive an additional $2 million depending on whether or not other districts use all of their grant money or some of the projects in Borrego's package are rejected by DWR leaving funds available for repurposing. The successful applicants were:

Borrego Water District $4,540,500
Borrego Springs Watermaster $2,238,590
Borrego Springs Unified School District     $384,000
Borrego Valley Stewardship Council     $200,000
___________
Total$7,963,090

Some organizations dropped out of the application process because the DWR funds are available only on a cost reimbursement basis and they lacked the necessary upfront funds. DWR guidelines allow private entities to apply for a grant but specify that they must prove that their projects benefit the community and the basin. The de Anza Country Club submitted a proposal, but opponents asserted that it would do no more than allow it to conserve its own water resources for future use and, therefore, provided no benefit to the community or the basin.

Letters to the Editor, p. 6

Two letters. None about water.

BWD Update, p. 7

Renovation of BWD's wastewater Treatment Plant has begun. The plant was commissioned in 1980, has a capacity of 250,000 gallons per day and a current annual flow of about 60,000 gallons per day.

Newest BWD Director Finds Challenges, Opportunities, p.7

Introduces BWD's newly appointed Director, Paul Rosenbloom.



Borrego Sun 02/03/2022

Letters to the Editor, p. 6

Three letters. None about water.

Borrego Water District update, p. 7

The Borrego Water District is working with the Borrego Springs Watermaster on several proposals to be funded by as much as $10 million in Proposition 68 (The California Drought, Wate, Parks, Climate, Coastal Protection and Outdoor Access for All Act of 2018) intended to fund projects that will further efforts to meet requirements of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. These include monitoring Basin Groundwater Dependent Systems. BWD is proposing projects that will have beneficial rate impacts for decades and working with interested parties on projects that include turf reduction and conservation.



Borrego Sun 01/20/2022

Letters to the Editor, p. 6

Two letters. None about water.

Borrego Water District update, p. 7

The Borrego Water District, Borrego Springs Watermaster, Borrego Springs Unified School District, and various nonprofits are developing grant proposals for a share of between $7.6 and $10 million in California Dept. of Water Resources funds intended to support projects that facilitate sustainable management of groundwater as required by California's Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. The proposals will be scored and ranked by a project review committee comprising representatives of the Borrego Water District, Borrego Springs Watermaster, Borrego Springs Unified School District, and various local nonprofits.



Borrego Sun 01/06/2022

There was no no mention of water whatsoever in this issue of the Borrego Sun. HAPPY NEW YEAR!


LETTERS CAVEAT: For a few years now, San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond, who's District includes Borrego Springs, and the Francoise Rhodes, Executive Director of the Borrego Springs Chamber of Commerce, The Usual Suspects, have each been publishing a 'letter' in every issue of the Borrego Sun. These missives are, and should be published and labeled as, reports on the activities of the respective individuals or their organizations. They are included in the tally of Letters to the Editor herein because that is how the paper publishes them. Due to the small number of letters appearing in each issue, however, doing so significantly skews the count and is misleading. For the sake of data continuity, we will continue counting them as 'letters' so long as the Borrego Sun presents them as such, but with this caveat.

Digger




***For previous years see:***

In Case You Missed It 2021
In Case You Missed It 2020
In Case You Missed It 2019
In Case You Missed It 2018
In Case You Missed It 2017
In Case You Missed It 2016
In Case You Missed It 2015
In Case You Missed It 2014

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