The Reverse Robin Hood Ploy


In case anyone missed it, there is a very interesting article (“Dispute springs up in desert” by David Hasemyer) in the North County section of the Sunday San Diego Union Tribune (11/12/06).  It has some of the most straight forward admissions yet coming from the Borrego Water District about the severity of the overdraft. 


The article reports that the Montesoro (formerly Rams Hill) desert resort and its four-star golf course in Borrego Springs need a new source of water; and that Ocotillo Wells resident Mike Hussey is preparing to take on the Borrego Water District if it goes forward with a plan to drill wells near his home in order to irrigate Montesoro’s golf course. Hussey says the wells will suck his 30 acres dry and leave him with an uninhabitable expanse of sand, and “the BWD has no right to tap into the source of his water to keep the resort's golf course green, its man-made lakes filled and its decorative fountains bubbling.”


For the record, the South Slope /Rams Hill/Montesoro Project has already built six wells to serve the growing, unquenchable, and unsustainable  thirst of one development over the past twenty years and now wants to drill four more wells out passed theTexas Dip.  That would make at least ten wells they've drilled for one environmentally disastrous development in just over twenty years, an average of one new well every two years.


The article explains that:


The [Borrego Valley] aquifer is essentially a bowl under the desert that collects water from the surrounding mountains. For the past 50 years, more water has been siphoned from the bowl than has trickled back through rain and runoff. The water district's general manager, Russ Fogarty, said the bowl could run dry in as few as 35 years.


When the BWD GM says the basin "could run dry in as few as 35 years," however, he is being optimistic.  That number is one that was floated by Tim Ross PhD, an engineering geologist with California Department of Water Resources, at the BWD townhall meeting in February 2006.  Subsequently, at a meeting of the Groundwater Resources Association in San Diego, California on September 21, 2006, however, Ross made another presentation entitled Characterizing Water Resources of the Borrego Valley Groundwater Basin (T-Ross) in which he stated that, based on the most recent evidence, the aquifer is actually smaller than previously believed.  If that is the case, then the low end of the aquifer’s projected life is obviously something less than 35 years.  How much less is dependent on how much smaller the aquifer is than previously believed; and that is apparently not known with any degree of precision. In any case, it is not good news.


Fogarty agrees that the water planned for possible use by Montesoro will be drawn from a pool of water outside the Borrego aquifer and understands Hussey's passion for protecting his water.   “Water is gold here,” he said. “We are desperate to conserve that resource.”


The article reports that the BWD “has tried to buy farmland and let it go to dust.  There were no takers. It has offered to store water for other water agencies for a cut of that water.  No one was interested in that idea, either.”


Nonetheless Fogarty said, “We've got to do something; water is the biggest asset we have in the desert, and we are ever depleting that asset.”  Apparently the BWD has decided that “something” is now to steal water from people like Mike Hussey and others who own property overlying “contiguous aquifers.”  In BWD double-speak, “contiguous” apparently means that an aquifer is both a part of the Borrego Valley aquifer, which legitimizes their claim to it; and simultaneously not a part of the Borrego Valley aquifer, which allows them to claim that it provides “new” water to reduce the overdraft.  What it comes down to is that it is easier and safer for the BWD appropriate even small amounts of water from outside the valley and to promote that as a solution to the overdraft than to confront powerful, moneyed interests responsible for the profligate and unsustainable mining of groundwater in the valley.  Even if successful, however, this mini-Owens-Valley scheme will do nothing to reduce the current overdraft.  At best it may temporarily offset new demands for water coming from expansion and enhancement of the golf courses and construction of hundreds of new Mc Mansions at Montesoro.  Meanwhile, Mike Hussey, who lives lightly on the land and would like to continue to do so, says, “If they take my water away, they take away my home.”  He’s right, of course.  (For more, see Frankenstein in the Desert).    11/15/2006

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