Recent events suddenly make Borrego’s groundwater situation today appear even more dire than it did only a couple of months ago – and that was already pretty scary.
First, at the regular meeting of the Borrego Water District Board of Directors, Wednesday, March 28, 2007, a motion was made and passed to reduce the mitigation ratio from 3:1 to 2:1.
C. Reconsideration of Resolution 2006-12-1, Amended and Restated (New Groundwater Preservation Policy). Is the mitigation ratio of 3:1 appropriate or should it be revised? (Reference Policy No. 2005-6-1.) A motion was made by Director Smiley and seconded by Director Andersen to revise Resolution 2006-12-1 to reduce the mitigation ratio to 2:1. (Minutes Of The Regular Meeting Of The Borrego Water District Board Of Directors, Wednesday, March 28, 2007, p. 3)
Amended MSC: Smiley/Andersen revising Resolution 2006-12-1 to reduce the mitigation ratio to 2:1, revise Section 1 as discussed to reference the Preservation Fee schedule, and revise Section 2 to provide for use of the County of San Diego’s methodology for calculation of the average annual water use figure per household as the basis for meeting the mitigation requirements. RC: AYES – Smiley, Andersen, King; NOES – Shimeall, Mendenhall. (Minutes Of The Regular Meeting Of The Borrego Water District Board Of Directors, Wednesday, March 28, 2007, p. 4)
Second, later (much later) in the same meeting, the District Engineer reported the following:
A. District Engineer’s Report (Burzell/Post). Mr. Burzell reported on the loss of Well #2 in ID #4 [on Country Club Road]. He explained that the pump is near the bottom of the well and requires a net positive suction head. Mr. Rolwing pulled the pump and tried to clean and reset it, but the well cannot be deepened because of the bedrock beneath. This is the first well in the District to go out of service because of the declining water level. A booster pump will be used in the interim, but the long term solution would be acquisition of Well #5 from the Community Services District or drilling a new one. Director Smiley requested a detailed report at the next meeting regarding what occurred, the long term recommendations and the results of the last efficiency test. (Minutes Of The Regular Meeting Of The Borrego Water District Board Of Directors, Wednesday, March 28, 2007, p. 6)
Apparently the fact that a district well had bottomed out and would have to be replaced “because of the declining water level” was not considered by the worthies to be germane to the decision on reducing the mitigation ratio for new development. For most people who are paying attention this would come as a wakeup call; but apparently not for these Pollyannas.
In a subsequent written report regarding the “Useful Life of Existing District Wells,” dated 9 May 2007, the district engineer explained further that by “changing to a smaller capacity pump with less draw down… the life of the well has been extended for a year or perhaps a few months depending on the rate of the dropping water levels.” The report also identifies District Well ID4-10 located about ½ mile south of the well that failed and where the “pump setting is very close to the bottom of the well… [and] The water level has been dropping about 4 feet per year…” as the one “most likely to be affected” next by falling water levels. The report concludes that “…it is clear that we must plan for replacement wells which are drilled in deeper portions of our basin.”
Third, only two weeks after reducing the mitigation ratio and learning abut the failure of “the first well in the District to go out of service because of the declining water level,” BWD directors received further confirmation that all is not well with the Borrego’s sole-source aquifer. in a report from the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) prepared by Tim Ross, Ph.D., who has been closely involved in the BWD’s monitoring well program over the past several years and is knowledgeable of the aquifer, director’s learned that the aquifer’s storage capacity may, in fact, be far less than previously believed:
Director Smiley requested that a future Agenda include discussion of a Department of Water Resources report on Monitoring Well 5, indicating there may be substantially less groundwater in storage than previously interpreted. He recommended that Dr. Tim Ross, who prepared the report, be invited to the meeting. (Minutes of the Borrego Water District Board of Directors Adjourned Meeting of April 25, 2007 on Wednesday, May 9, 2007, p. 1)
It is not clear at this point, of course,
exactly what this means; but there is no interpretation of it that can make
it sound like good news. Borrego is in even deeper trouble than anybody knows. The only question now is: How much deeper? Stay tuned.
See also Bad News for Borrego