The Cadiz Project
Update: In October 2012, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors accepted the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) and Groundwater Mitigation, Management and Monitoring Plan to approve the Cadiz Project permit. The debated, lead agency, Santa Margarita Water District had accepted and signed off on the FEIR in August 2012.
Cadiz Inc., a publicly traded corporation based in Los Angeles, is seeking to pump 50,000 to 75,000 acre-feet of groundwater a year, from the Eastern Mojave Desert railroad town of Cadiz to benefit Southern Orange County. Cadiz’s plan is to mine the groundwater and sell it to local water districts, which includes: Santa Margarita Water, Three Valleys Municipal Water District, Suburban Water System, Golden State Water Company, Jurupa Community Services and California Water Service Company. The estimate for natural groundwater replenishment in the basin is around 5,000 and 32,000 acre-feet per year, with most independent estimates at the lower end. Groundwater levels will drop substantially making this an unsustainable water source.
Coastkeeper supports responsible water management; however, the Cadiz project does not fall under this category. Cadiz proposed a plan similar to this one nearly a decade ago, which was then rejected by the Metropolitan Water District. Both these plans have similar components: mining the groundwater, using the groundwater basin as storage for “surplus” water from the Colorado River, then claiming this project is sustainable. This proposal is being challenged by groups from all over the region and with enough citizen opposition, the water district may not go through with the plan.
Why this project is unsustainable:
Cadiz claims the project to be sustainable, that the water mined would be lost to evaporation, but this valuable surface water is needed to support the ecosystem. Cadiz intends to mine more water than what nature would replenish the aquifer with. This would cause a deficit in the water table. The much needed surface water would disappear, damaging the ecosystem and causing a significant impact to the surrounding protected areas affecting: bighorn sheep, desert tortoise, and other animals dependent on the area’s small springs.
Groundwater is an unregulated commodity, making water from this project a dangerous addition to the water supply. Without government oversight, Cadiz is free to deliver water of questionable quality. In this case, the groundwater has been found to contain significant amounts of hexavalent Chromium.
The environmental effects of the project are unclear. Cadiz and the Santa Margarita Water District have made claims that the project will not harm the ecosystem of the area. There is no hard evidence to support this claim. Even in the Environmental Impact Report they admit to not fully understanding the science and consequences from the proposed mining. As anyone who lives in the desert would know, every drop of water out there counts, so taking away what little water this habitat has to rely on, would be detrimental to the survival of the entire Cadiz region.
Read these articles to learn more about this project:
- Board OKs environmental plan on Mojave Desert groundwater sales -The LA Times, 8-2-2012
- Carcinogen in Mojave groundwater could require costly treatment – The LA Times, 7-21-2012
- Cadiz water project progresses – The Press-Enterprise, 7-18-2012
- What the Cadiz water plan is, and why it needs to be stopped – KCET, 6-28-2012
- Company wants to tap Mojave’s public lands for Southland water - The LA Times, 5-16-2012
- S.B. County: County outlines groundwater project agreement – The Press-Enterprise, 5-1-2012
- Mining Groundwater for Profit: The Cadiz Project - Huffington Post, 1-24-2012