Water fee discussed

Additional state legislation may call for further reduction in residential water use

By BRIAN COSNER, News Review Staff Writer

The Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority will hold a public hearing on June 21, regarding a proposed $35-per-acre-foot pumping fee for groundwater use in the IWV. The fee, or more accurately its justification, was a primary topic of discussion during meetings of the IWVGA’s Policy and Technical Advisory committees last week.

The IWVGA is acting as a groundwater sustainability agency for the valley under the state Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. The multi-agency board, with representatives from Ridgecrest, the IWV Water District, counties of Kern, San Bernardino and Inyo, Department of the Navy and Bureau of Land Management, is responsible for developing and implementing a Groundwater Sustainability Plan by 2020.

The initial pumping fee’s purpose is to cover $1.5 million in administrative fees for the board to continue developing a GSP that will be ready by the SGMA deadline. This $35-per-acre-foot fee does not take into account any costs outlined by the plan to get to groundwater sustainability – it only funds the GSA board for the next year and a half.

While the fee proposal is already on the table, the IWVGA’s Water Resources Manager Stetson Engineering is still in the process of having area well owners register their wells to collect further groundwater pumping information.

“Information is going to kind of trickle in,” said TAC member Eddy Teasdale. “You might want to hold off … on your pumping fees until you get a better sense of how much volume is being pumped in the basin. Otherwise it’s just garbage in, garbage out.”

“As we’ve said many times, we’re not opposed to paying a fair and reasonable fee, but this is moving a little quickly,” said Derek Hoffman, legal representative for one of the valley’s larger pumpers, Meadowbrook Farm. “Imposing the fee while getting these registration forms out at the same time doesn’t create a window of time long enough to begin gathering data that would ultimately affect what the fee is.”

During Wednesday evening’s Ridgecrest City Council meeting, Mayor Peggy Breeden (who is also the IWVGA chair) brought up recent state legislation AB-1668 which will limit residential water use to 50 gallons per day per person by 2030.

According to the IWVWD, each local resident uses more than 100 gallons per day, especially in the summer when swamp coolers are turned on.

“I would like us to try and work with the water district to not allow new homes to go in with water coolers,” she said. “If they’re going to have cooling, it has to be air conditioning.”

This was met negatively by several councilmembers. Breeden added that grants may be available for waterless cooling, but that she didn’t know for certain.

An informational meeting on the pumping fee was held Thursday evening at the Inyokern Senior Center.

Details were not available at press time.

Stay tuned to learn more on water fees and restrictions.

Story First Published: 2018-06-08