A half century of water plunder.
Over a half century ago it was recognized that the leading cause
of the Silver Valley's diminishing water table and water supply was due to
overdrafting by alfalfa farmers. This was well before the Mojave River's
flow to our Baja subarea was impacted by upstream growth.
In the early 1980's, the county of San Bernardino spent considerable
money on an Environment Impact study that was released in a Draft EIR for a
Newberry Springs-Harvard Community Plan that was officially presented in February 1985.
According to that 1985 report, the county spent the money because it was
"resource-based Community Plans will be adopted to mitigate the significant
adverse effects identified in the Environmental Impact Report." (Page 12.)
Local resource-based plans were to fill-in and address the gaps of the county's broad General Plan.
In the proposed Resource-based Plan for Newberry Springs, on page 11,
A resource-based plan (in this case
one that establishes land uses that can be sustained over time by native groundwater without
significant overdraft) would most likely require a reversion of land uses to those described
in the "Water" mitigation section: residential, some lakes and drip-irrigated
nut/fruit orchards, but no alfalfa. The obvious social and
economic implications to many lake-owners and farmers would be overwhelmingly significant,
not to mention the obvious political ramifications.
It is conceivable that a resource based plan could also be predicted on the importation
and recharge (or storage) of State water in amounts equivalent to the groundwater deficit;
however, the likelihood of even partially offsetting the 51,000 acre feet overdraft is
marginal due to limited availability of surplus water.(Bold underlined emphasis above added.)
So even 3-decades ago, the rapid depletion of the Newberry Springs groundwater
supply was critical on the minds of county officials. The extensive planning and research
that went into the 1985 Newberry Springs-Harvard Community Plan, however, went nowhere.
The powerful farming interests made politically sure that the community plan and its recommendations
found a dark county archive where it wouldn't impact their profitable, unsustainable water
Today, to offset mandated rampdowns, some farmers are reportedly circumventing
the court order by cheaply purchasing or leasing the water rights of non-pumpers. So their
heavy pumping continues and the purpose of the rampdowns is not working. Some farmers are
placing fallow fields back into operation.
Each year the annual rainfall in Newberry Springs is less than 4 inches,
not feet as the water table is declining. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand
that this farming imbalance since the early 1900's is creating a serious problem for all Newberry
Springs residents and property owners.
On May 23, 1984, Chairman Gene Archibek, Co-Chair Annette De Jong, and
other board members of the Silver Valley Farm Bureau signed a letter to the lead of the county's
Environmental Analysis for the above community plan wherein they wrote:
"You do not hear the farmers complain that they have problems with their
wells going dry because they are intelligent enough to put their wells
in deep enough so as not to be bothered by fluctuating water tables."
In short, the farmers were saying that the Newberry Springs residents are
stupid. That the farmers drilled deep wells knowing that they were going to be pumping the
water table down; and that the complaining, unintelligent residents only have themselves to blame
for not foreseeing the environmental consequences of the farmers' heavy pumping.
Farmers may have been among the first settlers of Newberry Springs, but that
doesn't give the few farmers entitlement to destroy the community's water source for thousands
It's time to stop the madness.
Window period for your crucial comments closes October 17th.
The apathy of residents in Newberry Springs has allowed the heavy
pumpers to rip-off the community's water supply costing the average resident thousands of
dollars in deeper well replacement and expensive electrical power to pump the water up hundreds
The water depletion is only getting worse.
Are you going to have the money for a deeper well?
the Mojave Desert Resource Conservation District is working on a water
Baja Sustainability Plan
and it would appreciate YOUR immediate input. This High Impact plan involves the Mojave
Water Agency, the county, federal and state agencies, the Superior Court, and YOU. Written letters
are preferred, addressed to the Mojave Desert RCD office at the address provided
a quick e-mail (that preferably includes your name and address)
and a brief comment would be meaningful and influential. This e-mail can be
quickly done by clicking
and stating your opposition to the continued unsustainable heavy water pumping in the Mojave
Valley (and especially in Newberry Springs); and request that strong conservation measures be enacted
to stop heavy pumping for crops that are excessive water guzzlers (such as alfalfa).
If you will, please send us a CC: copy - firstname.lastname@example.org
Participate. Do it for yourself, family, and community.