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Water Wasted in Construction

Any one who has spent time in Borrego has likely observed a contractor preparing a site for pouring a foundation pad. Typically, several high capacity “Rain Bird” sprinklers are allowed to run day and night for at least several days with little monitoring. According to the Borrego Water District (BWD):

According to a structural engineer of many years experience who is familiar with the Borrego valley:

It does not appear that contractors in Borrego bother with any of these technical details, preferring instead to simply pour water on a site until it is saturated, or they remember to turn it off, in order to save engineering costs. In so doing, they are wasting huge amounts of water in a misguided and ineffective attempt to compact soil on the cheap. If builders were charged a proper rate for water used at this stage of construction it would provide an incentive to use appropriate methods, improve the structural integrity of buildings in the valley, and save precious groundwater at the same time.

It seems intuitively unlikely that using water in this way and in these amounts would be permitted in other desert states with similar soil types but more enlightened water laws, e.g. Arizona and Nevada. In any case, it should not be permitted in the Borrego valley given our serious and seemingly intractable groundwater problem.

One may wonder why the County of San Diego Department of Planning and Land Use does not require proper compaction procedures for structures placed on 4 feet of fill in an area prone to earthquakes to protect them from damage caused by future settling. In Borrego, however, it is first and foremost a water problem; and the BWD should be the lead agency in solving it. Unfortunately, the BWD board has shown scant interest in doing so.

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