Drought, overdrafts affecting valley water levels (February 23, 2015)

As a small part of on-going water research, I measured two Mojave River aquifer water well depths Sunday. The most significant of the two wells is located at the western edge of the Mojave River bed, just south of Rock Springs Road, in Hesperia. The well water now measures 136 feet deep, a modern record of sorts. That well normally ranges from 90 to 120 feet deep.

Why is the water now so deep? Two main reasons. The effects of the drought are obvious. More importantly is the continued pumping of water from that area by the Mojave Water Agency(MWA) through their misnamed R3 (R-cubed) project. Politically, the R3 project was designed to pump water through underground pipes from the Rock Springs area to Victorville and Adelanto. During the building boom of the mid-2,000s, the Victorville aquifer was over-drafted to supply all of those thousands of new homes with water. Now, Victorville and Adelanto live on R3 water.

As a water source, R3 is man-made. If there is no rain or snowpack, there is no water to replace that which is being pumped from underground. That is the dilemma. The state of California has had no water available to replace the water which is being pumped from Rock Springs, even though the law mandates such replacement.

The MWA spent millions of dollars on an option-to-purchase water years ago through Dudley Ridge (and Berenda Mesa). That is only an option and if there is no water available to purchase through the option then no water issues from the aqueduct to replenish the underground water supply. Those $73 million were taxpayer dollars. It is educated opinion that the MWA has never successfully purchased water through those expensive options.

In the Victor Valley for years, there has been no regular reporting about the MWA, the Watermaster and, generally, the condition of the water aquifer. It would be of immense help to educate the public about water if there was something as simple as an on-going Water Report. Such report need not be complex but it would display in weekly, monthly and annual fashion the underground water levels in a few select locations and also continuing reportage about the amount of water consumed in the valley on a monthly and annual basis. A regular report of perhaps once a month, and possibly twice a month in the summer, would be invaluable.

To say that the Victor Valley population is uneducated about water matters is an understatement. The MWA has never openly tried to regularly report such information as, politically, it is too sensitive.

Such large building projects as Tapestry and Hacienda At Fairview rely upon the water supply report that uses potential water availability through Dudley Ridge to satisfy the requirement that there must be at least 20 years worth of water available to receive approvals for any building project of 500 homes or more. Tapestry contends that the Las Flores approval of 2010 included water then available. The problem, of course, is that the water is not now available due to the drought and the R3 water overdraft.

Water is one of those topics which require perspective and history. It is important to note that the MWA abetted the water adjudication of 1996, contending that the farmers were using too much water. Now, it is the MWA overdrafting the aquifer and they have no water to replace that which is being used.

Al Vogler is a Hesperia resident.

Source: Daily Press