The water table is dropping between two and three feet a year, says Dickinson. Water is being drawn at almost five times the rate it is recharged. He suggests that a court appoint a water master who would apportion usage. Now, most of the water is used by growers and golf courses.
Sharman thinks water could be apportioned equitably through an ordinance, and the water district should look for outside sources, such as piping water in.
Rich Williamson, head of the water district, says there are 50 to 100 years of water left in the aquifer. He gets that number from a staff person of the U.S. Geological Survey, which is doing a study. “Pessimism about water is extremely premature,” he says. But Dickinson thinks there will be trouble in 30 years.
“The basin is severely overdrafted,” says John Peterson, who was the county’s groundwater geologist for 22 years and now has his own firm. Some wells are going dry. “For the most part, we have not been able to identify any additional sources of water as the ground level continues to fall.”
“Water in Borrego is an economic issue,” says Peterson. “If your water bill went up to $1000 a month, you would use less water.” As the price of water rises, “It won’t be economical for fruit growers. That changes the economic dynamics of the valley.”
And as the price goes up, maintaining a golf course might get quite expensive. Somebody buying Montesoro and the ranch will have to ponder that, he says.