I was struck by both the hubris and hypocrisy of the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Authority’s recent public records request to the Indian Wells Valley Water District detailed in last week’s article titled “Groundwater Authority presses WD for new basin data.”
For over half a decade, the Groundwater Authority has been hiding behind a “confidentiality agreement” with the United States Navy to deny the public requests for access to its self-proclaimed prodigious groundwater model. It has also violated the Public Records Act by refusing to provide water users with documents to support its actions, including its adoption of the highest “replenishment” fee in California. Only now, when the Groundwater Authority is on the cusp of suffering the ultimate indignity of having to acknowledge its dire assessment of groundwater resources in the Indian Wells Valley, the Groundwater Sustainability Plan, and the model it relies upon are a complete sham, does it suddenly have an interest in the public’s right to access and transparency.
In point of fact, the Groundwater Authority has no interest in transparency of any kind. It lives in a fantasy world in which it spends millions in State grants and its water users’ monies wildly in pursuit of consultants to contract for water supplies that are not financeable, on engineering work for a pipeline that will never be built, and on legal fees defending its actions. None of which would be necessary if it had simply provided public access to the model and data input that we know are skewed.
The Groundwater Authority’s day of reckoning is coming. As the Groundwater Authority is pursuing a 2025 update to its preposterous Groundwater Sustainability Plan, and facing litigation over that plan, the agency is undoubtedly anxious to know what the Water District knows about the real sustainability of the basin. That truth will not be convenient for the Groundwater Authority. Its hypocrisy of demanding transparency for others but not itself is now on peak display.
Rod Stiefvater, Mojave Pistachios