Tiny Borrego Springs Agrees to Huge Water Cuts to Guarantee its Survival

Borrego Springs, the small desert town at the entrance to California’s sprawling Anza-Borrego State Park, has won a judge’s approval for an agreement under which large farmers, resort owners and its own water district will slash water use by 74% by 2040. Officials say the cuts are needed to keep the town of 3,000 alive.

More than a dozen major landholders, including ranchers and developers who’ve long grown crops and created lush golf greens in the parched desert by pumping large amounts of water from a rapidly depleting aquifer, signed on to the settlement agreement. Together with the town, their share of water rights total more than 75% of an estimated 24,000 acre-feet of water pumped annually out of the desert floor. Within 19 years, that is required to plummet to about 5,700 acre-feet.