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BWD Yearly Review at Town Hall: "A Comfortable Financial Situation"

 

Last updated 3/15/2019 at 11:23am



The regular monthly meeting of the Board of the Borrego Water District (BWD) was held at the Library on Feb. 28 where Board members, assisted by a PowerPoint slide presentation in the Community Room, reviewed water-related topics (but not GSP) and associated financial, infrastructure, water quality, and administrative issues. At the end of the meeting, GM Geoff Poole fielded written questions from an audience of about two-dozen in attendance. The following is a summary of the high points of the meeting:

Newly appointed BWD Board Director and Board President Kathy Dice opened the meeting, welcoming the audience members and introducing herself, a 30-year Borrego resident, humorously as “The New Beth Hart, with big shoes to fill.” Hart served on the previous Board for 8 years, and she recently retired as Board president. Dice also introduced the current Board Directors: Newly elected Director Dave Duncan, 8th-year veteran Director and VP Lyle Brecht, 3rd-year Director Harry Ehrlich, and 5th-year Director and Treasurer Ray Delahay. Gary Haldeman, rate-payer representative, also sat at the front table and gave a presentation on water allocation.

Director Dice first laid out BWD’s “lofty” mission statement: “To preserve and conserve its priceless resource so as to reverse the overdraft of Borrego Valley, while at the same time provide quality water and sewer service in an efficient, cost-effective manner at a high level of customer satisfaction.”

Founded in 1962 by the consolidation of three private water companies with 12 wells scattered throughout the basin, BWD is now interconnected with a 90-mile long system of wells and water pipes serving about 2,100 customers, including sewage treatment for about 800 customers. BWD also conducts water quality studies, including a major effort towards implementation of the Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP). All this at the actual cost of acquiring the aforementioned services, with no profit. “We’re all in this together,” Dice concluded to the audience, “and we don’t do it without you.”

Director Ehrlich began by stating the BWD must operate in a sound financial environment. He put up a “net cash flow” chart covering our recent history beginning in 2011 under conditions that Ehrlich describes as severe financial stress, to put it charitably. BWD then began to dig itself out of $7 million in debt, a distinct lack of creditworthiness, and an infrastructure that was in dire need of attention. Litigation costs also drained away money we didn’t have to spare.

With a current bank balance of $4.2 million cash, minus projected costs in 2019, BWD is left with a positive balance for FY2018 of $800,000 dollars. Ehrlich says the Board’s goal is to have a $3.4 million “cumulative reserve” to not only meet known current and future costs but also to meet unknown costs associated with the GSP. “We are now in a comfortable financial situation,” Ehrlich concluded, “and feel we are in an even more secure position going forward.”

Director Dave Duncan gave a bit of a history lesson regarding the GSP, but this topic has been well covered in previous issues, and we’ll be covering the rollout of the GSP draft, a very broad management document, arriving in mid-March. So for now, we’ll stick to BWD finances and water availability for this article.

“The District Board is making an economic decision to not pursue zero reductions from current municipal use for no compensation to other potential water rights holders at this time,” Brecht said. If BWD receives an allocation of 1,700 acre-feet per year (af/y), then any groundwater use above that amount must be paid for to existing users. “Starting pumping allocations will be set at the maximum annual pumping from Jan 1, 2010 – Dec 31, 2014,” says Brecht. “This is to provide credit for any water conservation that may have occurred since then.” The policy will apply to all pumpers above two acre-feet or more per year in all sectors.

“In my opinion,” which is a moral argument by Brecht, “both SGMA and California water law leave much off the table related to equity, fairness, and environmental justice.”

Speaking to the issue of water quality, Brecht argues that despite the opinion of some experts, water quality decreases as one obtains water from lower and lower depths of our aquifer layers. And also that water quality is affected by agricultural return flow.

Full article in the March 7 issue of the Borrego Sun.

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