Reasonable and Defensible, Water Policy Urged
Last updated 4/4/2018 at 11:59am
Two lawyers with expertise in state-wide water policy asked Borregans at the BWD’s Annual Town Hall meeting on March 28 to carefully consider the legal hurdles – mostly time and money - involved with actions and policies included in the writing, submission, and implementation of our Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP), due out in final form by Jan. 2020. Tom Bunn and Steve Anderson highly recommended that, based on their experiences with landmark water law cases, our GSP consists of “reasonable and defensible” actions that will hold up in court. Members of the public, farmers, and virtually anyone not satisfied with GSP particulars can take their case to court.
Bunn and Anderson were two of the speakers at the Town Hall, attended by nearly 100 people, where the BWD Board of Directors and consultants to the Board led a discussion of the current status of our BWD and GSP.
Board member Joe Tatusko presented a recommendation to adopt the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) and project projections for eight current and future fiscal years (July – June) “that range from fresh water production from our nine wells, distribution, storage and projects for our Waste Water Treatment Plant.”
Board member Lyle Brecht discussed the economics involved with our water situation. Based on studies, he said, property values decline if water rates don’t keep up with demand for both quantity and quality of water. He cited the Flint, Michigan example where skimping on a few million dollars in infrastructure improvements resulted in hundreds of millions in mitigation costs and legal expenses when lead from the delivery pipes was introduced into the potable water supply.
In summary, there is a 150-year history of water law on the books, defining and attempting to fairly adjudicate who has what rights, which rights are superior to others (overlying, appropriative, prescriptive, in that order), and how water gets allocated among competing users.
The two water law experts both made clear that new water law, despite placing the “human right” to fresh water above all other water rights has not been tested in the courts. The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) calls for mandatory reductions in groundwater use, but does not say how that is to be accomplished. Options include direct reduction, fallowing land, purchasing water credits, and others.
But with the variety and complexity of different use reduction scenarios affecting disparate stakeholders in a community, there naturally arise legal disputes.
Full story can be found in the April 5 issue of the Borrego Sun.