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The following was published as a "Viewpoint" in the Borrego Sun, November 8, 2012. It appears here by permission of the author.

District Needs to Take Control to Solve Water Woes

James Wallerstedt - November 14, 2012

In 2001, I passed along resources I'd requested to help address Borrego's aquifer issues. A friend suggested that I recommend the Borrego Water District check out the San Antonio area's Edwards Aquifer Authority (EAA) project, saying it was a "model for the future" for managing limited community aquifer resources.

I visited the EAA website, printed some documents, and gave these to an individual on the BWD Board. At this time, BWD and most in our community knew there was an ongoing overdraft situation; realized that "importing" quality water at reasonable cost is unrealistic; and knew aquifer draw-down associated with roughly 70% agricultural, 20% golf course and 10% residential demand, most of this falling outside BWD jurisdiction.

The EAA model involved state legislation, creating a regional "Water Authority," with (unlike BWD) the ability to fully protect community water resources. Natural resource "Precautionary Principle" statutes, in California, also allow for the creation of an EAA-like "Borrego Water Authority." More than ten years after I passed along my EAA notes to the BWD, EAA is now considered - as was suggested in 2001 - an ideal role model for the responsible management of limited underground community water resources.

The previous BWD board blew through $5 million in reserves, pursuing more detailed "Aquifer Studies," alongside "studies" regarding the El Dorado quest to find... "sources of imported water." Amid ongoing rate increases to bridge budget shortfalls - being paid for by BWD ratepayers, who are not the primary local water consumers - if BWD can regain financial strength, we're told that will permit... more studies.

My view is that BWD, 2001 until today, has mainly been engaged in what the psychologists call "Avoidance behavior."

In the April 14, 2012 Sun, an individual identified as a "former legal counsel" to the AAWARE water-pumping consortium, "...cautioned the Board and the crowd against castigating farmers," noting that agriculture pumpers have "both property rights and water rights." Their counsel added, "Fighting will destroy your community and only serve to make the lawyers happy." She instead encouraged "civil discourse."

"Civil discourse" between BWD and AAWARE constituents during the past decade, hasn't produced anything to rectify the worsening situation. AAWARE's counsel failed to mention that the community, itself, has "property rights and water rights" surpassing those held by her AAWARE constituents; though BWD has not seen fit to begin exercising these. Had a multi-year campaign been launched, anytime between 2001 and today, to create a new "Borrego Water Authority," it could've been in place by now.

In 2006, the Sun published an article I wrote commenting on ads sponsored by AAWARE, depicting BWD as a "cry-baby," saying their talk about an aquifer draw-down was an "Eco-scam." Replying, I suggested that the community and BWD needed to take a more pro-active stance. Though we can't recover the millions BWD spent since 2001, a new Borrego Water Authority could still be created. And, as they say, "Better late than never."

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