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The Borrego Water Cabal (BWC)

Digger - June 6, 2013

If you live in Borrego Springs you may have heard about the Borrego Water Coalition - but not much.

The reason for the dearth of information is that, although called the Borrego Water Coalition, this group is actually a cabal formed in logo: Secret the fall of 2012 when Borrego Water District directors Beth Hart and Lyle Brecht began meeting secretly with a select group of high-profile pumpers, plus a smattering of others to provide a veneer of legitimacy, to divvy up what little water remains in the Borrego Valley aquifer. Hoi polloi needn't apply.

In March of this year the existence of the Borrego Water Cabal (BWC) was finally revealed in a Chamber of Commerce press release worthy of the name. Since then the cabal has deigned to publish superficial summaries of its still secret conclaves, but it's hard to tell from these cryptic and self-serving notes what members of the cabal are actually up to.

The situation is akin to inviting hogs to guard a cabbage patch and the outcome as predictable. The wider community should be incensed at this plutocratic power and water grab aided and abetted by those elected to the BWD board on a promise of transparency to preserve the valley's water supply.

At the 2013 Borrego Water District Town Hall meeting in March, Director Lyle Brecht alleged that one reason there had been so little progress to date on resolving the overdraft of the Borrego Valley Aquifer was "a question of urgency." That is: Why bother fixing the problem today when it can be put off until tomorrow? Brecht was implying that previous boards and General Managers had decided to simply kick the can down the road. The Borrego Water Cabal, however, is a perfect vehicle for creating the appearance of "doing something about the overdraft" while continuing to ignore the all-important "question of urgency" and accomplishing nothing. The Chamber of Commerce press release points with pride to the fact that after six-months of meetings members of the BWC now "agree there is an overdraft", and, apparently on the strength of consensus on that single, self-evident point, the California Department of Water Resources "agrees to continue supporting the BWC as long as there is measurable progress." The obvious but critical questions of how much "progress," toward what, over what period of time, and who will measure it by what benchmarks, if any, are all, of course, left unanswered. So, in fact, we are looking at just more of the same old same old. All talk and no action, all show and no go.

In California there is only one proven successful strategy for saving overdrafted groundwater basins: adjudication. If, and only if, the community and the Borrego Water District board face that fact and act accordingly will there ever be real progress toward a sustainable water supply for the valley. Unfortunately the BWD board will not move in that direction unless pressure from ratepayers is sufficient to overcome the evident undue influence of the pumpers, and most in Borrego assuredly will meekly sit on their hands and wait for the Moguls to come down from the mountain, deliver the tablets, and siphon up what's left of the groundwater. Too bad.

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