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The Neighborhood Effect

Digger - August 28, 2008

BWD's General Manager arbitrarily decided shortly after arriving in February that the Borrego Valley aquifer was a lost cause; so irrigators should be allowed to pump it dry while the district imports water to serve its customers. Along with a raft of other reasons not to like this bone-headed strategy, the worthies at BWD should seriously consider the following:

Globalization of manufacturing is losing some of the economic power and appeal it had for the past quarter-century. Instead, what some economists are calling a "neighborhood effect" - putting production facilities in as close proximity to markets as possible to control escalating transportation costs - is gaining favor.

Californians close to major rivers or an underground water supply, e.g., Borrego, routinely weather the state's periodic dry spells thanks to their water rights. Others, dependent on California's convoluted and vulnerable water supply system, find themselves "suck'n hind tit" when, as now, supplies run short.

Importing water, in addition to being iffy, incurs huge and ever-increasing pumping (transportation) costs.

The logic is simple. Borrego already has a local source of good water which, properly managed, can provide an uninterruptible water supply at reasonable cost indefinitely. The General Manager is apparently unwilling to do what is necessary to guarantee a sustainable local supply. He prefers instead to go into the market for an interruptible supply at costs that will only continue to increase driven by growing scarcity and rising energy prices.

In so doing, he is spitting into the wind. The smart money is moving in the other direction for good reason. We should all fervently hope that those charged with stewardship of our sole-source aquifer soon will see the wisdom of the neighborhood model and act accordingly.

Saving the aquifer is a race against time. Time is winning.

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