Frequently Asked Questions-old
CADIZ VALLEY WATER CONSERVATION, RECOVERY AND STORAGE PROJECT
Developing a reliable water supply for Southern California and preventing the loss of clean native groundwater to evaporation and salt contamination at nearby dry lakes.
About the Project
The Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project is a water supply project that will actively manage the groundwater basin underlying a portion of the Cadiz and Fenner Valleys in California’s Mojave Desert, to conserve renewable native groundwater that would otherwise be lost to evaporation and create a new reliable water supply for Southern California
The Project will be implemented in two phases. The first phase would capture approximately 50,000 acre-feet (1 acre-foot = 326,000 gallons) of groundwater per year from a wellfield on Cadiz Inc. private property and deliver it via a pipeline to the Colorado River Aqueduct to water users throughout Southern California. In wet years, water could be stored safely underground through active management by the wellfield. A second phase of the Project would use the available capacity in the soils beneath the ground to store up to 1 million acre-feet of imported water. The imported storage phase of the project will undergo a separate environmental review and permitting process after the first phase is implemented.
The Project is located in Cadiz, California at the base of the Fenner Valley and Orange Blossom Wash watersheds, which span approximately 1,300 square miles (roughly the size of the State of Rhode Island). The Project wellfield will be built on the Company’s property and a conveyance pipeline will be constructed along the Arizona & California Railroad (“ARZC”) right-of-way to connect the Project wellfield to the Colorado River Aqueduct near Rice, California (near Twentynine Palms, CA). Cadiz Inc. is the largest private landowner in the region with over 45,000 acres (70 square miles) of private land.
Multiple water providers that serve millions of Southern California water users have signed letters of intent, option agreements or purchase agreements with Cadiz Inc. to reserve water supplies from the Project. The Santa Margarita Water District (SMWD), Orange County’s second largest water retailer, was the first provider to join the Project and reserve Project supplies under contract. Additional project participants include Three Valleys Municipal Water District, Golden State Water Company, Suburban Water Systems, California Water Service Company, and Jurupa Community Services District. Cadiz has also reserved 20% of Project supplies for future use by any San Bernardino County-based water agencies and is in discussion with additional water providers interested in securing supplies from the Project.
The Arizona & California Railroad Company, which owns the right-of-way where the project’s conveyance pipeline will be constructed, is also participating in the Project and will be receiving water from the Project to serve critical railroad purposes.
Southern California is an arid region and, in addition to frequent droughts, faces a long-term water crisis due to regulatory restrictions on its imported water supplies, population growth and rising costs. As a result, water providers must identify reliable, high-quality and affordable water supplies to build a balanced water supply portfolio and keep costs low for rate payers. Most Southern California communities, including towns across the inland desert region as well as the coast, rely on water imported from northern California and the Colorado River, and these supplies have become increasingly unreliable, especially in dry and drought years. The Cadiz Project offers certainty in both wet and dry years that water will be available.
Water users throughout Southern California in the service areas of the Project’s participating agencies will receive supplies from the Project. These participating agencies serve customers in Riverside, San Bernardino, Orange, Los Angeles, Imperial and Ventura Counties.
About the Water Resource
The Project is located at the base of the Fenner Valley and Orange Blossom Wash watersheds in California’s Mojave Desert. Every year, precipitation falls on the mountains in the watersheds as rain and snow. This water gradually percolates underground and is stored deep beneath the surface in the aquifer system. The underlying rock layers provide ideal conditions for storage of this pure water; research has found that 17 – 34 million acre-feet of water is currently stored in the alluvium beneath the Project area, as much as is stored in Lake Mead, the nation’s largest surface reservoir. Even more water is believed to be stored further underground in carbonate rock layers.
Groundwater in storage naturally flows downhill through the aquifer system over hundreds of years and ultimately to area dry lakes at the base of the watershed, where it becomes highly-saline and evaporates through the surface. To minimize the loss of this clean groundwater to evaporation, Project wells will intercept the groundwater and capture it before it reaches the highly-saline brine. Once implemented, the Project would conserve and recover millions of gallons of water every year for beneficial use throughout Southern California.
Detailed scientific analysis of the Project’s watersheds over many years has confirmed that the groundwater in the system is naturally renewable. A variety of scientific models have been used to estimate the amount of recharge occurring annually in the Watersheds surrounding the Project area.
In 2008 the United States Geological Survey (USGS) developed a new model called INFIL 3.0 to estimate groundwater recharge. Applying the INFIL 3.0 model, which incorporated extensive data about local soils, vegetation, precipitation, temperatures, rock types, and field research of the Cadiz and Fenner Valleys, an estimated 32,000 acre-feet per year was projected as a long-term average amount of water that reaches below the root zone to become groundwater at the Project area.
Withdrawals of water will be limited to sustainable amounts that preserve the health of the aquifer and safeguard the desert ecosystem. Over the 50-year term of the Project, an average of approximately 50,000 acre-feet of water per year will be conserved and put to beneficial use in Southern California communities. This is enough water to serve about 400,000 people per year and significantly less water than could be used if Cadiz Inc.’s property, which is currently zoned for agricultural production, is farmed instead.
About Project Development
A. In order for conserved water supplies from Cadiz to reach water retail agencies in Southern California, it must be moved in conveyance facilities owned and operated by MWD. Under California law and MWD’s Administrative Code, MWD must move water for third parties if space is available in its facilities and certain conditions are met.
MWD’s role in the Cadiz Project is solely focused on the review of the request of Southern California retail agencies to convey Project supplies in MWD facilities on their behalf. The negotiation of these conveyance terms is occurring between the engineering staffs of MWD and the retail water agencies participating the Project, not directly between MWD and Cadiz. Importantly, MWD itself is not a “Project participant” – it is not purchasing water directly from Cadiz or storing its water supplies at Cadiz.
The Project participants and Cadiz have committed that the conveyance of Project supplies will not harm MWD in any way. Cadiz will treat water at the wellhead to standards established by MWD for its facilities. The participating agencies will pay published wheeling rates andmove water when space is available. MWD also will have an opportunity to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in economic benefits, such as reduced treatment costs, by moving Cadiz water into the service area.
MWD had a direct business relationship with Cadiz from 1997 to 2002, when the agency considered purchasing and storing water in the Cadiz Valley under an earlier iteration of the Project that is no longer being pursued. In 2002, MWD decided not to proceed with that project (called the Cadiz Valley Groundwater Storage & Dry Year Supply Program) and it did not go forward. In that instance, MWD was the only participating agency and also the lead agency in the CEQA/NEPA environmental review. In 2003, Cadiz filed litigation against MWD challenging its decision not to accept permits offered to the 2002 project by the US Bureau of Land Management. However, there is no current or continuing litigation as both parties dismissed their suits in 2009, each agreeing to bear their own costs.
There are no similarities between MWD’s role in 2002, when the question was whether or not to purchase water and implement the whole Project, and the present activity, in which MWD is establishing terms to convey conserved water for agencies within its service area at their request.
Today’s Project participants have representation on the MWD Board of Directors and when the conveyance terms are finalized they will request the Board approve the terms on their behalf.
The following are important summary facts about the role of the MWD in the Project:
1. MWD is not a Project Participant. While MWD was a project participant in 2002 (i.e. would have received all water available from the Project), neither the Santa Margarita Water District nor Cadiz have sought or requested MWD to acquire water from today’s Cadiz Water Project.
(1) MWD holds no agreements with Cadiz for the current project.
(2) MWD was not listed as a Project Participant in the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR).
2. MWD’s role is as a conveying agent and as a Responsible Agency in the CEQA environmental review process.
3. MWD is being asked to convey water in accordance with its Administrative Code – not to participate or approve the whole of the Project.
(1) Section 4209 of Metropolitan’s Administrative Code provides that Metropolitan may join or enter into agreements with member agencies for the wheeling, exchange or banking of water. Moreover, Section 4207(c) authorizes the General Manager to exchange up to 50,000 AF per year where there is a water quality benefit to Metropolitan by completing the exchange.
(2) The Project does provide a water quality enhancement valued at $400 million. http://cadizinc.com/2013/08/21/press-release-cadiz-project-to-provide-8-million-in-annual-savings-to-southern-california-water-users/
(3) A contract for conveyance of Cadiz Project water by MWD would be entered into between MWD and the Project’s participating agencies (not Cadiz) for the use of the CRA capacity, which for the last 15 years has not carried its maximum historic use of 1.3 million AF, to move Cadiz supplies to those retail agencies that need it. This agreement (not the whole of the Cadiz Project) would be considered by the MWD Board. See – http://cadizinc.com/2015/08/09/press-release-cadiz-inc-announces-new-water-project-support-from-southern-california-local-elected-officials/
4. As recently as September 2015, engineering data was shared by SMWD and the Municipal Water District of Orange County (MWDOC) to MWD staff about the conveyance arrangements.
(1) In person meetings earlier this year were followed by a site visit to Cadiz over the summer. Written evaluations have been exchanged at the staff level.
(2) When MWD representatives state that there is no “proposal” before MWD or no “negotiations” between Cadiz and MWD, this is factual. This is because there can be no proposal before the MWD Board, unless and until the engineering staffs of SMWD, MWDOC and MWD submit a preliminary design report for evaluation. This work is ongoing and a proposal would be before the Board as a very final step.
5. MWD has communicated conditions on conveyance, which SMWD (and Cadiz) are committed to meeting.
(1) Wheeling fees: Project Participants will agree to pay the rate derived from and equivalent to the final judgment in SDCWA v. MWD.
a. MWD’s rates are subject to Proposition 26 and the limitation that rates must reflect the cost of service, (San Diego County Water Authority v. MWD (2015) San Francisco Superior Court, Case No. 10-510830).
(2) Quality: Water will be subject to a non-degradation standard. LINK
(3) Conveyance by the CRA will be completed on a space available. LINK.
6. MWD must convey water through available capacity. California Water Code Section 1810 et seq. (the Wheeling Statutes) governs the conveyance of water by MWD through its facilities.
(1) When space is available, MWD must wheel water in its facilities.
In relevant part, the law provides that: “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, neither the state, nor any regional or local public agency may deny a bona fide transferor of water the use of a water conveyance facility which has unused capacity, for the period of time for which that capacity is available, if fair compensation is paid for that use, subject to the following.” See link for the full provision.
(2) The provision is applicable and binding on MWD. (Metropolitan Water District v. Imperial Irrigation District (2000) 80 Cal.App.4th 1407 allowing the adoption of a rate as compliance with the Wheeling Statutes.)
Project facilities would be constructed in two phases:
Phase 1 – Conservation and Recovery
To ensure minimal disturbance of the desert landscape and habitats, Project operations will be concentrated to Cadiz’s pre-disturbed agricultural land and other private lands. A wellfield would be constructed on Cadiz Inc. property to actively manage the aquifer system and minimize loss of groundwater. A 43-mile underground steel pipeline will also be constructed and buried within the active ARZC railroad right-of-way between Cadiz and Rice, California. The pipeline will connect the wellfield to the Colorado River Aqueduct allowing for delivery throughout Southern California.
Phase 2 – Imported Storage
The Project would add capacity to the wellfield and pipeline to make available up to one million acre-feet of groundwater storage space in the aquifer system for water imported to the Project area. Recharge basins would also be constructed on Cadiz Inc. property to percolate imported water into the aquifer system. The imported water would be held in storage in the aquifer system underground using the wellfield.
The Project will provide numerous benefits for local communities throughout Southern California. According to a study published by Inland Empire economist Dr. John Husing, the Project would create support over 5,900 jobs and generate more than $878 million in economic activity in the Inland Empire over its two construction phases, and infuse millions of dollars in tax revenue to local governments over the long-term, including approximately $5.4 million per year for San Bernardino County budgets and $613,000 per year for the Needles Unified School District.
The Project also offers numerous water supply benefits for the Southern California region. Implementation of the Project will improve local water supply reliability and reduce the demand for imported water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the Colorado River, both of which continue to be limited by drought and regulatory restrictions. Such improvements could help manage Southern California’s energy demands, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and stabilize rates for water users. In addition, the Project will create new groundwater storage opportunities, improve water quality by lowering the salt content in the Colorado River Aqueduct, and allow supplies to be kept in area surface reservoirs for long-term savings.
In a white paper released in January 2014, Southern California economic consulting firm Stratecon estimated that the Project’s water supplies could result in $6.1 billion in savings and avoided costs over a 50-year period. These benefits would not only be realized by Project subscribers, but experienced by all water users throughout the entire Southern California region.
About Environmental Protection & Review
In accordance with California law, the Project has been extensively reviewed pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) environmental review and permitting process. In July 2012, following more than two years of significant technical analysis, field survey of the Project area and public review, the Santa Margarita Water District (SMWD) certified the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) and approved the Project under CEQA. The FEIR considered peer-reviewed technical reports, as well as independently collected data, scientific modeling and public comment, and summarized that, with the exception of unavoidable short-term construction emissions, by implementing the measures developed in the Groundwater Management, Monitoring and Mitigation Plan (GMMMP), the Project would avoid any significant impacts to desert resources, including critical resources of the desert environment such as vegetation, mountain springs, and water and air quality.
In October, 2012, the County of San Bernardino Board of Supervisors also approved the GMMMP and the Project’s withdrawal of an average of 50,000 AF/year over 50 years.
In 2012 and 2013, the approvals of the Cadiz Project were challenged in Court by five separate petitioners. Three parties’ cases were withdrawn or otherwise dismissed and two proceeded to trial in December 2013. In May 2014, the Orange County Superior Court issued a ruling in the remaining cases that denied all CEQA claims against the Project and upheld the Project environmental review and approval. These cases have been appealed to the California Court of Appeals, 4th District and are expected to be heard in 2015.
Prior to construction, the Project also requires an agreement with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to convey Cadiz water in the Colorado River Aqueduct, as well as a certification from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management that the Project pipeline will further in part railroad purposes. These transportation milestones are expected to be completed prior to the end of 2015.
As a member of the Cadiz Valley community for over 25 years, Cadiz Inc. is committed to the highest standard of environmental protection and good stewardship of the surrounding desert environment and water resources. In 2009, Cadiz Inc. entered into a Green Compact with the Natural Heritage Institute (NHI) to ensure that its projects operate sustainably. Since that time, the Company has also invested in significant technical and environmental analysis of the Project area to ensure that the environment is always protected.
A Groundwater Stewardship Committee (GSC) comprised of leading experts from various fields including geology, groundwater, hydrology, water regulation, environmental protection, and academia, reviewed the Project’s technical analysis of the four potential impact areas: springs, subsidence, air quality and water quality, as well as the Project’s operating plan and monitoring program. After completing its review in October 2011, the GSC concluded that with long-term management and monitoring, the Project could offer a significant water supply to Southern California communities without harm to the desert environment.
The GSC’s specific recommendations for monitoring and mitigation measures were incorporated into the project’s GMMMP. The County of San Bernardino will independently enforce the GMMMP monitoring program, which will employ more than 40 monitoring wells, air-monitoring devices and new weather stations. All monitoring reports will be filed with the County and made available to the public. The GMMMP also includes corrective actions and mitigations measures that would be implemented to prevent any potential impacts. In addition, the County established a “floor,” or maximum drawdown level, for Project operations, according to which groundwater levels cannot fall more than 80ft (subject to increase to 100 feet if protective conditions are met) below the current water table over a two mile radius from the center of the Project wellfield area. The floor is designed to ensure that the Project avoids overdraft or any undesirable results.
On August 3, 2015, Sen. Feinstein wrote to President Obama to request that he designate three new National Monuments in California using the Antiquities Act of 1906. In her request, Senator Feinstein asked the President to consider designating the Cadiz Valley as part of the proposed Mojave Trails National Monument. Sen. Feinstein encouraged the President to “seek input from all of the stakeholders” and “broader public input” prior to making his decision.
While there is no mention in the letter of which lands in the Cadiz Valley are requested for monument designation, such a designation is only applicable to federal lands, not private lands, and historically even designated federal lands remain subject to valid exiting rights that preceded the designation. The Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery, and Storage Project is located on land privately owned by Cadiz Inc. in the Cadiz/Fenner Valley and is designed to use an existing 1875 Act Right-of-Way that will further a number of railroad purposes. As a result, we do not expect any Monument designation to have an impact on our project plans. However we hope that the Obama Administration will consider all stakeholder input, including from local elected officials and government bodies, prior to taking any action.
Springs are found in the upper elevations of the 1,300 square-mile watershed, far from the Project area. The springs are fed first from above by the rain and snow that falls at higher elevations. Water that does not reach a spring filters through the crevices in the rock layers to become part of the aquifer system.
The nearest spring to the Project area is Bonanza Spring located in the Clipper Mountains at 2,100 feet in elevation. It is pproximately 11 miles from the Project area and is situated more than 1,000 feet above the saturated alluvial aquifer system.
According to extensive scientific analysis conducted there is no physical hydrologic connection between the springs in the upper elevations of the watershed and the groundwater stored in the alluvial aquifer beneath the Project area. As a result, pumping water from the aquifer system beneath the Project area, miles away and deep below ground surface, could not harm the springs. Bonanza Spring will be monitored to demonstrate that it is not impacted by the Project.
Most of the area’s private wells are located at higher points in elevation and draw water before it reaches the alluvial aquifer system at the Project area. As a result, other private wells are not expected to be affected by the Project. Water levels may fluctuate closer to the Project area and could lead to fluctuations (both up and down) in wells nearest the Project. To ensure that the Project does not impact these private wells, any well owner can be monitored by the Project’s GMMMP. The monitoring features will quickly identify and address any indications of impacts to well levels and these impacts would be mitigated.
Extensive study of the chemistry composition of the Bristol and Cadiz Dry Lakes confirms that unlike surface water fed dry lakes playas in California, such as Owens Lake, the crusts of the Bristol and Cadiz Dry Lakes, which are fed only by groundwater and are comprised of calcium chloride, are not susceptible to increased dust emissions from dewatering, because the chemical is known to bind rather than disperse. As a result, extensive scientific study has found that Project operations will not harm air quality in the area. Nevertheless monitoring devices, including air nephelometers, will be deployed throughout the Project area to ensure there are no expected impacts.
The vast watershed surrounding Cadiz has very few overlying land uses and is free from the threat of bacterial waste and industrial contamination. Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), a key measurement for determining water quality, typically ranges from 300 to 400 milligrams per liter (mg/L) at Cadiz, significantly lower than California’s Colorado River supply which can be as high as 800 mg/L in drier years.
High levels of TDS in water can clog pipes and machinery, drive up water heating prices and can damage agricultural crop production. According to the Southern California Salinity Coalition, increased salinity is one of the most under-recognized water quality threats in the Southwest. A recent report from engineering consulting firm CH2M found that blending Cadiz water into the CRA will save Southern California ratepayers $395 million over the life of the Cadiz Project.
Cadiz groundwater has also been tested for metals, including Chromium. Chromium is a heavy metal and the 11th most common element in the earth’s crust. It can naturally occur as Chromium-3 or Chromium-6 in groundwater when manganese in the groundwater oxidizes.
In July 2014, the State of California adopted a new MCL for Chromium-6 at 10ppb. Chromium is naturally occurring at Cadiz, and Chromium-6 has been measured at levels slightly above the new MCL in some wells. According to the California Department of Public Health, close to 2,500 public drinking water sources in California have measured levels of Chromium-6 greater than 1 ppb, including other desert groundwater basins such as the Coachella Valley.
Cadiz Inc. has partnered with ATEC Systems Associates Inc., a water treatment technology firm, to treat Project water supplies on site to below the Chromium-6 MCL prior to entering the Colorado River Aqueduct for delivery to Project participants. Pilot testing results demonstrate that the ATEC technology can cost-effectively remove Chromium-6 at Cadiz to a level substantially below the new California State standard. Water will never be delivered to any end user of the Cadiz Project that exceeds an MCL for any constituent, including Chromium–6.
Public comments and input are welcome and encouraged.
Comments on the Project should be submitted to:
Tom Barnes, ESA
626 Wilshire Boulevard Suite 1100
Los Angeles, CA 90017
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