Digger - February 08, 2018
California's Sustainable Groundwater Management Act limits withdrawals from the Borrego Basin to its safe yield. The Borrego Water District board has long supported awarding pumpers ninety per cent of the safe yield per the lopsided Borrego Water Coalition covenant negotiated in secret by BWD Directors Lyle Brecht and Beth Hart. Their justification for such excessive generosity was an unfounded and now discredited claim that extractions must be proportional to historic use. If implemented, that allocation scheme would result in BWD receiving less than one-quarter of the water historically required to serve its customers, force it to buy water from pumpers at whatever price they demand, and compel it to dramatically increase water rates.
In December 2017 the Borrego Springs Community Sponsor Group "unanimously expressed its strongly held view that... residences and businesses who receive their water from the Borrego Water District cannot have any reductions [in water use], and should not have to bear the cost of fixing a water overdraft primarily caused by agricultural over-use of water." The Sponsor Group sent a letter to the Groundwater Sustainability Plan Advisory Committee asking that the Agricultural Sector "show good faith toward the town of Borrego Springs by agreeing... that the Municipal Sector of water users will have no reductions made from the Municipal Baseline Water allocation" of 2,461 acre ft/year so that "water the town needs to survive" will remain available.
At its January 2018 meeting the Groundwater Sustainability Plan Advisory Committee formally recommended using the highest annual use between 2010-2014 inclusive as a baseline for calculating how the Basin's 5,700 acre foot safe yield should be divided among agriculture, golf courses, and BWD. For BWD that number is 2,461 acre ft/year, the amount cited by the Sponsor Group's letter. At the same meeting, however, with the silent assent of BWD Directors Brecht and Hart, the Sponsor Group's request that the District receive the entire Municipal Baseline Water allocation was summarily put over until late March.
Borregans should be thankful that the Sponsor Group has asserted itself to protect the community and outraged that the BWD board has not.
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