January 26, 2017
The following was published as a Letter to the Editor in the Borrego Sun, 01/12/2017. It appears here by permission of the author.
Soon we will start the negotiations to divide up 5,700 acre feet of water, which is the amount of our recharge, for all the users in the valley. This is the total amount we can use annually. We currently use 19,000 acre feet of water. Anything over 5,700 acre feet means we will still be drawing down the aquifer. The State mandates we can longer do that.
First, we will require the farmers and the golf courses to meter their water so we know exactly what they use. Second, we will assess fees for the use of that water...they currently pay nothing for the water they use.
Third, we need to develop a time line as to how long it will take to reach sustainability. The State says we can wait until 2040 at the outside to reach the 5,700 acre feet number. However the water district is testing our well water to determine how far we can draw down our water levels without pumping up contaminated water. Under no circumstances can we draw down our aquifer to a level where our water quality is degraded enough that treatment would be required to make the water potable. A water treatment plant would bankrupt our community. So, we may have to reach sustainability before 2040.
How will the 5,700 acre feet of water be divided up between the users? The Borrego Water Coalition which is made up of the State Park, the Anza Borrego Foundation, the golf courses, farmers, and the Borrego Water District has recommended that the farmers get the percentage they currently use which is 70 percent. That means the farmers would receive 3,990 acre feet of the 5,700 acre feet available. The golf courses would receive 20 percent, 1,140 acre feet, and the water district 10 percent, 570 acre feet of water each year.
That means the water district, which currently delivers 1,600 acre feet to the homes and businesses in Borrego will need to purchase around 1,000 acre feet of water from the farmers just to supply current needs. That leaves no water for growth.
The golf courses are going to also want to buy more water and will need to get it from the farmer allocation. That means the golf courses and the water district could be in competition for farmer water. The price of water could get very expensive.
If the water sells for $2,000 an acre foot, the ratepayers would need to spend $2 million dollars for that water. I have been told by the water district that water rates could double in the next ten years.
THE WATER DISTRICT NEEDS TO NEGOTIATE FOR MORE WATER IN THIS PROCESS.
This whole situation could become very dicey for all Borregans. We have no choice however. We have been drawing down our aquifer for over 50 years at alarming rates. We cannot continue to do this. Besides, the State now mandates we can only use as much as our recharge.
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