Action Necessary To Save
Silver Valley's Water Supply

      Hour after hour pumping of the Newberry Springs aquifiers for alfalfa farming is pumping the future existence of Newberry Springs dry.  Due to increased water rationing expected in the next few years, many alfalfa farmers not switching crops are expected to sell their water rights, land, and leave Newberry Springs.  The continued damage to the groundwater table depth, and water contamination damage due to toxic urban sludge now being used for fertilizer, will depend upon how quickly heavy pumper rampdowns, pumping taxes, and alfalfa bans are enacted.

October 11, 2014

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 expecting that "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, it states:

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 pumping.

    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.  Example

Simple logic.

    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 of others.

Fight back!
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 of feet.

The water depletion is only getting worse.
Are you going to have the money for a deeper well?

    As previously reported, 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 here.

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 here 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 - newberrysprings@hotmail.com

Participate.  Do it for yourself, family, and community.

Related recent blogs:
Planning Sustainable Water - Community Turning Against Farmers -  9/19/14
Angry Residents Call For Rampdowns And Pumping Tax -  9/26/14
Farmers are horrified at proposed draconic rampdowns -  10/4/14

For the doubting Thomas on alfalfa being shipped to China:
U.S. farmers making hay with alfalfa exports to China -  L.A. Times  6/8/14
Readers React -  L.A. Times  6/14/14


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