Additional 5-percent rampdowns on the adjudicated farmers, and the
initiation of a water pumping tax upon all who pump over 10 acre-feet per year,
is being considered in Newberry Springs as a measure to curb the ever worsening
overdraft of the Baja Subarea water basin that comprises the Mojave Valley.
The Baja Subarea has been recognized by the Mojave Water Agency
as being in a serious overdraft since the early 1950s.
Measures by the Superior Court on the water adjudication over the years
have proven ineffective to successfully stop the water pumping overdraft by farmers.
As residents have seen the farmers' pumping depleting the water table reachable by their
residental wells; and seeing their water quality and health diminish due to the farming
introduction of nitrates, pesticides, herbicides, poison by heavy metals, pharmaceuticals,
industrial contaminants, and pathogens contained in urban sewage sludge that many farmers
spread as compost, some in Newberry Springs are saying enough is enough.
A return to annual rampdowns of 5-percent is proposed until the
overdrafting is reversed. To encourage conservation and to place encouragement
upon those farmers who are not a part of the adjudication process, a pump tax of a
minimum of $100 per acre foot per year upon all heavy pumpers, those pumping in excess of
10-acre feet per year, is being promoted.
The tax funds created by those causing the overdraft can be utilized to
purchase replacement water by the Mojave Water Agency. In addition, as a number of
residences are acquiring contaminated well water; the funds could help pay for deeper
replacement wells for lower income residents.
The idea of a water pumping tax has been around for a long
time. Over 30-years ago, on May 3, 1984, it was promoted as a topic at a Mojave
Water Agency meeting; where then, it was recognized that there was at least a 30,000
acre-feet per year overdraft as substantiated "through various studies beginning with
the Stetson Report in 1974, the cooperative report by the Department of Water Resources
and the Agency in 1981 and the CM Engineering studies beginning in 1983."
Thirty years later, the water table is lower, the water quality
is far worse, and discontent is rising at the failure of the farmers, the Mojave
Water Agency, and the Superior Court to remedy the serious problem.
The authority of the Mojave Water Agency to assess a tax against
pumping was substantiated in a four page letter dated March 30, 1983, opined by the
Legislative Counsel of California, Bion M. Gregory.
The farmers have plundered the valley's water resources for decades and have
greedily contaminated the soil by using cheap toxic sewage sludge for fertilizer. Water
is the lifeblood of the desert and some residents now believe that the unsustainable farming
must stop for the long term livability of Newberry Springs.
A minimum assessment tax of $100 per acre foot on heavy production is very
low in comparison to what replacement water is selling for within the MWA jurisdiction.
The minimum introductory tax is being suggested as a reasonable and a fair start in addressing
overdraft and water quality damages.