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Borrego Valley Quickly Depleting Its Only Water Supply

The Borrego Water District offices appear in this undated photo.
Borrego Springs Chamber
The Borrego Water District offices appear in this undated photo.

Borrego Valley Quickly Depleting Its Only Water Supply
Borrego Valley Quickly Depleting Its Only Water Supply GUEST:Jerry Rolwing, General Manager, Borrego Water District

Even with El Niño storms, many communities in California are still feeling the pinch of the for your long drought. When desert community blessed with a large aquifer is also straining its water supply. The San Diego Union-Tribune is reporting Borrego Springs is drawn from its Aqua for four times faster than being replenished. The numbers come from a US geological survey. That has led the state to intervene and mandate the Borrego Water District stop drying cement water from its Aqua for. Joining me is Jerry Rowling general manager of the Borrego Water District. Welcome to the program. Tell us about this aquifer. How much water does it contain? Those questions are really not answerable because we did not know the exact configuration of the Aqua for below us. We know it's quite large. USGS report we just finished is a for a five-year study estimates that if we continue our present rate of extractions, we could exhaust the uppermost of the three aquifers in 50 years. Is this the community's only son -- source of water? Yes. What point did you start to realize though groundwater was a concern? Did take the survey or did you know it already? We have had indications of this for quite some time. The water levels are proof. We can take the measures of existing wells and in the north then they have been dropping two or 3 feet per year for about 20 years now. Are you dealing with the possibility Branca Springs could run out of water back Is highly unlikely it would ever run out of water. When we get down to the bottom portions, the water quality may make it too expensive to extract. Explained that for us. As you go deeper into the aquifer, you get into older sediments which have contaminants from the older supply water. Some of those contaminants such as arsenic, and other metals and minerals are difficult to process out and to treat for. So the water will become more and more expensive the meme. Correct. Now Borrego is now developing a groundwater sustainability agency. What tasks would you like to see that agency take on? First of all, this has been the sustainable management act of 2014 explicitly says that if we do not get control of our aquifer to get it in balance, where we recharge equal extractions -- they will come in and take over for us. We are doing everything we can to prevent that from happening. What we've done over the years, we have created a management plan in 2002 and most recently, we have created -- with the help of the department resources, the Borrego water correlation, a consortium of 80% of the extractions in the Valley, farmers, golf course users, resorts, water district, the state park meeting together the same table to come up with a solution that will work for everyone. Has the community actually cut back on water use? Definitely. I came to this job and started as an eight -- engineering technician 18 years ago. At that time the community was using .95 acre-feet for single-family residence. Our more recent numbers from last year are .5 Our more recent numbers from last year are .52. We have created a bit of savings. How have you gone about doing that? We had a series of conservation programs which cost the district about $305,000 over the course of two and half years. We offered rebates for washing machines and irrigation audits for we would have to professional auditors come to your yard and walk around your yard with you showing you what is not working. Pride this plant shouldn't be watered the same amount as is plant or your pipes are leaking. They would write a report and we would find up to 25% of the repairs. We also had a dollar per square foot purchase of turf. Borrego Valley is a small community and aside from the residence -- the people you are talking about, who put in different kinds of low flow toilets I imagine, and redid their landscaping, there is the rest of the water going? How is it being used 70% of the water extractions in the Valley are from agriculture. There is 3000 acres of agriculture in the Valley. 3% is being extracted by the golf courses and 10% by the residential users. Up until the sustainable groundwater management act. Up until this time, the district had had only responsibility for the ratepayers. We had no authority over the private wells, farmers and golf courses. The legislation provides that authority that we have to reduce our water usage to get back to the natural recharge levels. Are using now the water district have the authority of from water Deshler water from the provider wells click When the plan is adopted, it will provide the authority. You already have rules about new development going into the Borrego Valley. Are those and our developers following them Yes they are. We have the water credit program. That is designed for new people coming to the Valley to take out existing use to make up for the new use going to the Valley. If a subdivision wants to come to town, they have to fallow farmland to create water for the project. ASI. -- I see they have to take water from agriculture to build a residential community. The article says a lot of water is going to maintain Borrego Valley as a tourist destination. Do you think the nature of that is going to change with these new mandates that you are under? I see it increasing. Resemble be the fallback after we lose other industries because of high water use. I see what you mean. In the agriculture goes, the tourism will increase. That's what we believe. Is El Niño helping your community situation at all? El Niño really doesn't affect us that match out here. We have 2 inches of rain a week and a half ago that we haven't had anything cents. The on the other side of the mountains. We get 5 inches of rain per year. It's very difficult to say, if we get a big storm it will help. It will not solve the problem. Okay then. I appreciate your speaking with us. Think you for calling. I have been speaking with Jerry Rowling, general manager of the Borrego Water District.

The community of Borrego Valley is using four times more water than is being naturally replenished in its underground aquifer according to a six-year study by the U.S. Geological Survey. The study was first reported by The San Diego Union-Tribune.

"We have a very large aquifer here and we are working together as a community to create a sustainable resource that our future would depend on," said Jerry Rolwing, General Manager of the Borrego Water District. "We are one of the few areas in the state that have our destiny in our hands and that’s what we are working for to solve this problem for the future of the Borrego Valley basin."

Rolwing said the aquifer is the community's only source of water, and if they continue drawing it down at the current rate, they'll be out of water in 50 years.

But, he said, he doesn't think it's likely the community will run out of water. That's because as the aquifer gets to lower levels, it will become too expensive to clean the water.

About 3,500 people live in the northeastern San Diego County community. Rolwing said the residents are making significant water cutbacks through rebate programs and irrigation audits.

But, he said, 70 percent of the water use goes to agriculture and 20 percent goes to golf courses. He said new state laws will for the first time give his water district authority over agriculture and other areas besides residential use.

What questions do you have about the Statewide General Election coming up on Nov. 8? Submit your questions here, and we'll try to answer them in our reporting.