Gleason ruminates on future of IWV

Gleason  ruminates on future of IWVBy BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

“What are we going to look like in 2035?”

That was Kern County Supervisor Mick Gleason’s big question at the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority’s last meeting, where he began to conceptualize a “Vision Plan for 2035.”

This was the GA’s first meeting since passing the highly-contested Groundwater Replenishment Fee. Authorities and residents report that the steep increase in water costs will – for better or worse – change the future of the IWV.

“The community is maturing to the idea that we have a water problem … and we need solutions to manage it,” said Gleason. “The conversation has changed from ‘are we an open or closed basin’ to ‘we have a water problem we need to solve.’”

Gleason said it’s been a “painful” process and the GA needs to “hone in on, and understand, why we’re doing what we’re doing. That’s the purpose of this ‘Operation 2035.’”

The GA’s Groundwater Sustainability Plan assumes the IWV will be importing water by 2035, but that could be 3,000 acre-feet annually of water or 15,000 acre-feet, said Gleason.

“Technology changes, environment changes, the community changes – our plan for water use needs to change with it. We can’t just sprawl our way through life as a community any more. We need to design it, we need to shape it, we need to put energy behind it. Is there going to be growth? I don’t know, but we need you – the people – to give us your thoughts.”

Gleason stressed the importance of a strategic plan that identifies immediate, intermediate, and long range problems, as well as their solutions.

The GA formed in 2016 and submitted a GSP to the state for approval in January of this year. But the Authority has yet to definitively answer some of these questions, such as where it will acquire imported water and how to transport it to the valley.

The absence of a fully-developed strategic plan and tangible solutions have been the main source of opposition to the GA’s replenishment fee. The $2,130-per-acre-foot fee’s purpose is to secure water rights through the State Water Project, but it does little else in regards to getting the water here.

With these questions still unanswered, critics have questioned how the fee will secure the future of the IWV.

Others question an unelected board making such broad determinations for the future of the valley. While several board members are elected officials from their member agencies, the board is comprised of appointed representatives.

Gleason mentioned that recycled water use and financing water purchases and a fallowing program as primary concerns and suggested assigning the tasks to the board’s Policy Advisory Committee, chaired by David Janiec.

He had other nebulous suggestions such as a water department replacing the Indian Wells Valley Water District as a valley-wide water provider.

“I don’t know, but it certainly is an interesting thought,” said Gleason.

No action was taken on the discussion item, though the board discussed holding future workshops to help develop the plan.

Story First Published: 2020-10-02