During our naive, but glorious "newbie" days, Bobbie and I drifted through innumerable backwater towns throughout the west… from the Mexican border all the way to Canada. Fellow roamers know the kind of towns I speak of, charming, idyllic places that get under your skin and tug the heart. At long last we were free to move about, try on new towns like Imelda Marcos tried on shoes, looking for a good "fit."
Personally, I was eager to move on. Montrose had been "Californicated," from a pleasant one-stoplight mom and pop shop burg, to a big box" strip mall interspersed with fast food chains. It was exhilarating for me to imagine living someplace new, to start over in unfamiliar territory just like Mo-town was when I landed there at the tender, wet-behind-the-ears age of 26.
Think you could live here?" I'd ask over and over, wondering if Bobbie felt any "tugs." I realize now, of course, that God made Women to counterbalance men like me… the kind of guy that would drive off in search of a pretty sunset never to be heard from again. "Wonder whatever happened to Whats-his-name?"
Borrego Springs, California could have been one of those "Pretty Sunset" towns—seasonally, anyway. Aw, typical male, all infatuated on the "first date," beguiled by a little lipstick and cleavage. I mean, that's the rap on finding "Paradise," isn't it? Seasonal. Excluding the temperate isles of our 50th state, I have yet to find one single place that isn't "seasonal." It's either too hot in the summer or too cold in the winter or too rainy or too dry… bla bla bla. This is why everyone needs an RV… an "escape mechanism," you know, for after the "make up" wears off and the cleavage is ho hum.
Borrego Springs remains a small town; no chain fast food joints, no stoplights, no freeways nearby… moderate winter weather. Still "promiscuous" after all these years, she charmed me in her own "sweet desert" way. To my surprise, Borrego Springs checked most of my "boxes," especially the "in the middle of nowhere" one. I like the idea of being only a couple of hours from the Pacific and other parts of California I have yet to explore.
So here's this little oasis in the desert, all "made up" (green), surrounded by charred mountains and guttered badlands reminiscent of desolate scenes found those Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Westerns in his early "glare and mumble" days. But for the miracle of spring water and power lines, not even the most committed desert rat could abide such a place as Borrego Springs.
Development in western deserts seldom lags far behind the discovery of water. Waterless as most deserts are, it is, in a way, a natural defense mechanism to keep moneychangers at bay, those who lie in wait to subdivide raw land into "surf and turf" country clubs with lookalike Mediterranean style homes lining the links. Then the scum-bastards put in place exorbitant HOA dues to further line their greedy pockets forever and forever.
So, Borrego Springs is blessed/cursed with water, enough to supply the residential taps of a city of 30,000 people, year in and year out. But not all that glitters green is money, especially in dry desert places. This has led to a "chicken or egg" type of argument… a circular one where residents, country clubs (golf courses), citrus farmers, and date palm growers keep tossing the "hot potato," and can't agree on how to address the ever-shrinking water table problem.
Wiki says the population of Boreggo Springs increased 35 percent from census 2000 to 2010, from 2535 residents to 3429. However, a recent mini census in 2014 estimated that the population had decreased to 2456 residents. What's up with that? Could it be the "dirty little secret" is out, that Borrego Springs is a ticking time bomb when it comes to water?
Now I like oranges and dates as much as anyone, and can appreciate that it takes a lot of water to grow such yummy treats. I can also understand the appeal of living in a house along one of the four (count 'em, 4) golf courses with expansive green lawns, and that it takes water to keep them from reverting to sand and dirt and weeds. But what I can't understand is the "stick your head in the sand" attitude of the "players" in what is on the verge of becoming a big, big problem.
Here, in a "nutshell," is the "big" problem. I'll let you decide who the "enemy" is.
Borrego Springs gets 100% of it's water from the Borrego Springs Valley Aquifer beneath the valley floor. This incredible natural resource is what makes life possible in one of the driest and otherwise inhospitable places on earth. Citrus and date farms sprung up around town way back when water was considered "eternal," followed by "planned communities" with golf courses and sunny retirement living. Snowbirds flock to such places, especially when there are golf courses—miles and miles of lush green carpet to keep them entertained and out of trouble.
It appears that the Borrego Springs Aquifer has been in a state of "unsustainable overdraft" for over 60 years. The breakdown of water use is as follows:
- Agriculture 70%
- Golf Courses 20%
- Residential 10%
Knowing we would be indulging in iniquitous food and beverage all afternoon, Bobbie and I took a long walk around western Borrego Springs on Super Bowl Sunday morning. The neighborhoods were older and modest. Then we reached a gated community that abutted the mountains. It had "Keep Out, Members Only, No Trespassing" signs everywhere. Behind the gates was another world… tall palms swayed in the hot desert breeze; manicured fairways beaconed; lush dark green grass sparkled with droplets of water; blue lakes with fountains gushed skyward, all surrounded with immodest homes and vehicles.
I turned to Bobbie, "Fuck'em. I need some shade." We let ourselves in.
It was "Sun City West." Seniors took turns whacking little white balls then climbed into electric carts to chase them down. I'm not sure where the exercise is when one drives a ball, then drives a cart to fetch it. But hey, that's just me.
Finally we spied a group without carts who were noticeably slimmer and fit looking. When they crossed the road in front of us, it was the strangest thing.
As they walked, little three wheeled "Segway" like vehicles carried their golf club bags… following along behind like a pet dog. Well, at least they were walking…
I was pretty sure Security was going to bust us any second, but continued to explore anyway. People were friendly, said "Good morning; Beautiful day…" And they were right. What a life. With all that grass and water and shade, it felt at least 10 degrees cooler behind "the gates."
I digress… Back to the "big problem."
Scientists from the California Department of Water Resources and the U. S. Geological Survey agree that at current rates of withdrawal Borrego Spring's precious aquifer will dry up in less than 50 years. Already there are water quality problems; as water levels drop, pollutants/minerals become more concentrated.
Millions upon millions of dollars have been thrown at the problem. But, unlike dirty under ware, nothing seems to "stick" to "the wall." Borrego Springs continues down a fast-track road to oblivion, this in spite of all the "science" that says the aquifer is being drawn down at a rate 5 times "recharge." The primary offenders (if I can use that word)… the citrus and date farmers along with the golf course owners… refuse to compromise. Their livelihoods are at stake.
I would imagine that the water shortage problem, at some point, if not already, will/is negatively impact(ing) real estate values. Perhaps that explains the sudden decrease in population from 2010 to 2014. Once word of the water shortage gets out, well… would you buy?