As a founding member of Transition Joshua Tree (transitionjoshuatree.org), a grassroots group dedicated to sustainable living in the Hi-Desert, I’ve taken an interest in the company known as Cadiz and its proposed water project. After some research and a few hours spent listening to company pitches, I’ve come to the conclusion that this is a bad idea.
A very bad idea.
The Cadiz property lies between Barstow and Lake Havasu and is about 30 miles north of the Colorado River Aqueduct. Cadiz uses water from an underlying aquifer for agriculture efforts on its 45,000-acre property. Now the company plans to sell this aquifer water.
Cadiz proposes to pump approximately 50,000 acre feet of San Bernardino County’s water yearly for 50 years and to sell it to an Orange County water district consortium, securing estimated profits to Cadiz in the billions. That’s right — Cadiz stands to earn one to two billion dollars during the project lifecycle by selling this water, a public resource, back to the public! Plus, Cadiz wants government subsidies to get the project started. What if Orange County districts don’t need the water? Then Cadiz can sell it to others — even those outside of California — at even higher profits. Hello, Phoenix or Las Vegas — need some of our pristine aquifer water to keep those golf courses green?
Cadiz insists that this aquifer has no connection to nearby water sources such as Bonanza Springs, or those springs in the Mojave National Preserve. To claim that this aquifer is unrelated to nearby water sources is “inappropriate” according to the National Park Service. I call it faulty science.
And where are the public servants to serve and protect? San Bernardino County supervisors have received $79,500 combined in campaign contributions from Cadiz since 2007, according to the Los Angeles Times. These supervisors recently voted to exempt the project from the county’s groundwater ordinance. (Thanks to Supervisor Neil Derry for voting against the agreement.) They instead approved an agreement which gives the county authority to enforce the project’s monitoring and management plan. Sounds good, right? Except for the fact that the lead agency will be 200 miles away in OC and it could be decades before problems arise. By that time, the water (and the profiteers) will be long gone.
As the Southwest becomes drier due to climate change, are we willing to drain our aquifers? Cadiz is willing to do it for profit motive … but would it be moral to do it for any reason if we don’t know for sure how this will affect the surrounding ecosystem?
The project name itself is full of irony: The Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project. It would be more aptly named the Cadiz Valley Water High and Dry Project, as that is where the desert will be if this goes forward.