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BWD Issues Imaginary Water Credits

An article in the Borrego Sun (27 May 2010, p. 3) comparing the cost of importing water with that of reducing demand on the Borrego Valley aquifer states that the Borrego Water District Water Credit and Mitigation Policy assumes an acre of citrus uses 10 acre feet of water per year (af/yr). It doesn’t; it assumes 5 acre feet per acre of citrus. Nonetheless, the Water Credit and Mitigation Policy does credit agribusinesses with saving substantially more water than they actually save by fallowing citrus.

A study done in 2003 for the agri-businesses’ mutual benefit corporation AAWARE is the only one ever to use data supplied by farm managers themselves. It was analyzed by AAWARE’s own paid consultant who determined that 2,340 acres of citrus in the valley had a net or “consumptive” water use of 8,892 af/yr or 3.8 af per acre per year.

That raises the troubling question of why the district allows landowners credit for saving 5 af of water per acre of citrus per year when, in fact, they are saving only 3.8 af. That is, approximately one-third of the water credits issued by BWD represent no water savings whatsoever. They are simply a windfall for the landowner. These phantom credits distort the economics of the district’s Water Credit and Mitigation Policy and greatly reduce its efficiency and effectiveness. They also, of course, call into question General Manager Williamson’s contention in the same article that the costs of importation and fallowing are "in the same ballpark.”

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