The following was published as a Letter to the Editor in the Borrego Sun of March 12, 2015. It appears here by permission of the author.
April 7, 2015
In a "Viewpoint" published in the last issue of the Borrego Sun Dennis Dickinson laid bare the great embarrassment we all share -- the draining of our only water source which has been occurring for at least 40 years -- and, why the local establishment has been unable and unwilling to make the necessary cuts in water use that will save our aquifer from extinction.
One of the primary reasons many of us come to Borrego is to enjoy the wilderness of Anza Borrego Desert State Park. If you are concerned about protecting this jewel of the desert then consider the following.
A simple Google search of the relationship between the draining of our aquifer and the loss of our above ground streams will elicit this quote. "Lowered groundwater levels drain water from streams, stressing ecosystems during low flow times causing increased magnitude and frequency of floods, loss of wetland and riparian vegetation, erosion and loss of wildlife habitat." Over pumping our aquifer drains water from our riparian streams casing major environmental damage.
The severe draining of our aquifer has undoubtedly already caused all these things to happen in Coyote and Palm Canyon. Approximately 65 percent of recharge to our aquifer comes from these two watersheds. Which makes it all the more curious the Park has signed off on the Borrego Water Coalition scheme which will let this go on for at least another 25 years!
The Park has also signed off on more developments to pay off the farmers (think about more solar arrays) and millions of dollars in bonds to be paid back by the citizens of Borrego ($20 to $40 million dollars worth).
It is not too late for the Park management to reverse these badly misguided decisions and demand the Water Board make the necessary reductions in water use to stop this ongoing environmental disaster. Unfortunately it will take strong leadership which does not seem to be within the Parks vocabulary. And, we have already drawn down the aquifer so far that stopping the destruction now would not bring our flows back -- only prevent further degradation in the future.
Water guru Professor Thomas Harter at U.C. Davis says no one has the right to drain our aquifer under California State Law. Property owners only have a right to take water equal to our "safe yield", which is 5,000 to 6,000 acre feet per year in Borrego. We currently use 20,000 acre feet per year. We must reduce our use by at least 14,000 acre feet per year to be sustainable.
Professor Harter goes on to say this concept is broadly misunderstood in the farming community. "The question is why no-one has sued the over-pumpers? It is a case that would go straight to adjudication if brought to court, which will then divide up the safe yield among the water users."
The local mantra so far is that we would lose local control if we do as Dr. Harter suggests. But, as Mr. Dickinson has pointed out, the "locals" have been unable to address this overdraft for the last 40 years and their current plan kicks the can out at least another 25 years and then it is still a maybe.
Please call the Park and the Water Board and suggest to them to take strong action now and not let this dark cloud to continue to hang over our valley.Ray Shindler
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