from the Philadelphia Inquirer

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – This desert oasis east of Los Angeles sold itself for decades on water and all the luxury it brings: strings of emerald golf courses, lush resorts and manicured neighborhoods with sparkling pools.

Now, the region that water built suddenly finds itself on shifting ground and in danger of drying up. Parts of the Coachella Valley have sunk more than a foot in a decade as groundwater was sucked up to feed a thirsty economy.

A study released this week has left officials scrambling to keep the tap on without jeopardizing more than 120 world-class golf resorts – among them PGA West, Bermuda Dunes Country Club and Mission Hills – or slowing a population that has ballooned by 25 percent in just five years.

“We have a problem, and we have to deal with it,” said Steven Robbins, chief engineer for the Coachella Valley Water District. “But our goal is to not have water be a constraint to growth. We don’t want to be the ones to say ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ to growth.”

Water officials are pursuing a range of solutions to ease the pressure on the aquifer, from a giant pipeline to import water for golf courses to giving away timers to regulate home sprinklers.

Though there hasn’t been any damage, there are fears that if more isn’t done, the uneven turf eventually could fracture sewer lines, crack roads and crumble foundations, costing taxpayers millions of dollars in repairs.

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