Borrego Sun - Since 1949

GSP Finally Arrives


Last updated 4/17/2019 at 3:32pm

After four years in the planning stages, Borrego’s Groundwater Sustainability Plan (GSP) has finally arrived for public review.

It is a massive document (878 pages in PDF) filled with background information, technical charts and colorful maps, and it is the “road map” for planning Borrego’s water future out to the year 2040.

The GSP is nothing short of comprehensive, and it meets the necessary goals and objectives of the underlying legislation (the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, or SGMA – pronounced Sigma).

The GSP is currently in the Draft stage, awaiting public input within a 60-day period. But even in its Final form, it will not spell out detailed management and program decisions and actions, but rather serve as a road map for programs and/or actions to be implemented both near- and long-term, provided they fall within the goals and objectives of both our specific GSP and SGMA in general.

And first among equals on SGMA goals and objectives is that because our aquifer has been designated “critically over-drafted,” we must cut back rather drastically (about 75%) on aquifer pumping affecting all three sectors of the Borrego economy – agriculture, golf courses, and municipal.

The GSP’s 20-year goal is to have pumping not exceed our aquifer’s natural recharge rate, namely 5,700 acre-feet/year (afy).

Groundwater levels have declined by as much as 126 feet in the northern part of the Subbasin, about 87 feet in the central area, and have remained fairly constant in the southern area (near Rams Hill), according to the Plan.

The multi-agency Borrego Springs Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA) is responsible for implementing the GSP, and it brings together two government agencies – our BWD having water supply and management responsibilities, and the County for land use and overall water management.

The two areas of responsibility overlap with regards to timely and efficient implementation of programs and actions to be later implemented under the GSP by County officials, led by Jim Bennett, the Water Resources Manager for our GSA.

“It is definitely comprehensive in scope, providing a suitable management framework going forward that will help us obtain critical data and information leading to adoption of specific programs and actions by our GSA in the years to come,” Borrego Water District General Manager Geoff Poole said of the Draft GSP.

Given that five-year benchmark reporting out to 2040 is mandatory under the GSP, Poole added, “Borregans also deserve to know on a regular basis how we’re coming along on the issue of sustainability implementation.”

The GSP will be the single framework for future decision-making options, examples of which include water trading and intra-basin transfers, pumping allocations, metering of all wells above a pumping rate of two-afy, regular monitoring and reporting of pumping data for both water quantity and quality, and measures to ensure the numbers are being reported accurately and in a timely fashion. All this to keep a record of how we are progressing toward the goals and objectives laid out in the GSP.

The full document is available online as a PDF at, and after the Executive Summary and Introduction, it contains five major chapter headings: Plan Area and Basin Setting, Sustainable Management Criteria, Project and Management Actions, and Plan Implementation.

For this article, the first in a series, the focus will be on the concept of a Water Trading Program under Project and Management Actions. It involves the rights of pumpers to exchange water allowances, on either a temporary or permanent basis, between pumpers who use over two-afy.

Full story in the April 4 issue of the Borrego Sun.

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