Frequently Asked Questions
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 designed to actively manage the groundwater basin underlying a portion of the Cadiz and Fenner Valleys in California’s Eastern Mojave Desert and conserve renewable native groundwater that would otherwise flow to hyper-saline dry lakes and evaporate.
The Project would be implemented in two phases. The first phase would capture an average of 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 permit 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 property owned by Cadiz Inc. 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 in 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.
Between 2010 – 2011, six water providers signed option agreements with Cadiz Inc. for water supplies from the Project. The providers included Three Valleys Municipal Water District, Golden State Water Company, Suburban Water Systems, California Water Service Company, Jurupa Community Services District and Santa Margarita Water District (SMWD). SMWD served as lead agency for the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) environmental review process for the Project. In July 2012, following a nearly 18 month review, the Board of Directors of the SMWD certified the environmental documents, approved the Project and also converted their option agreement to a purchase and sale agreement, finalizing terms for participation in the Project.
The Arizona & California Railroad, which owns the right-of-way where the project’s conveyance pipeline will be constructed, will also be receiving water from the Project to serve critical railroad purposes and is participating in the Project. Additional water providers may join the Project prior to construction.
Southern California is an arid region and 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 additional reliable, high-quality and affordable water supplies to build a balanced water supply portfolio and keep costs low for ratepayers. Most Southern California communities rely on water imported from northern California and the Colorado River, and these supplies can be unreliable in dry years. The 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 agencieswill receive supplies from the Project. The six current participating agencies combined serve over 1 million customers in Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino 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 Eastern 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 incorporates 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 significantly less water than could be used if Cadiz Inc.’s property, which is currently zoned for agricultural production, was farmed instead.
About Project Development
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 would 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.
Implementation of the Project will also 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. Add the number ‘six’ before water providers are participating.
About Environmental Protection & Review
The Project has been extensively reviewed pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) environmental review and permitting process. In December 2011, following more than two years of significant technical analysis and field survey of environmental resources at the Project area, the Santa Margarita Water District (SMWD) issued a Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) according to CEQA. The Draft EIR considered peer-reviewed technical reports, as well as independently collected data, scientific modeling and a state of the art Groundwater Management, Monitoring and Mitigation Plan (GMMMP) to complete its analysis of the Project. The Draft EIR summarized that, with the exception of unavoidable short-term construction emissions, by implementing the measures developed in the 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. Following a 100-day public comment period, SMWD released a Final EIR in July 2012 responding to all comments received. On July 31, 2012, SMWD certified the Final EIR and approved the Project and the GMMMP. On October 1, 2012, the County of San Bernardino Board of Supervisors also approved the GMMMP and the withdrawal of 50,000 AF/year in accordance with its Groundwater Ordinance.
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 extensive corrective actions and mitigations measures that would be implemented to prevent any potential impacts.
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 and fractures, 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, the area’s 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 chemical composition of the dry lakes confirms that unlike surface water fed dry lakes playas in California, such as Owens Lake, the crusts of Bristol and Cadiz Dry Lakes are not susceptible to increased dust emissions from dewatering and will not harm air quality in the area. Nevertheless monitoring will be implemented even though 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. Water at Cadiz is very pure and meets all State and Federal water quality standards for drinking water without treatment. Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), a key measurement for determining water quality, typically range from 300 to 400 milligrams per liter (mg/L) at Cadiz, significantly lower than California’s Colorado River supply. All groundwater having a TDS below 3,000 mg/L is considered by the State to be a potential domestic or municipal source of water supply.
In addition to TDS, water at Cadiz has been tested for metals, including Chromium. The federal standard for total Chromium is 100 ppb and California’s standard is more stringent at 50 ppb. Naturally occurring Chromium has been measured at Cadiz at far below both the State and Federal standards at levels between 10-16ppb.
If an MCL for Chromium is ever implemented that is lower than levels at Cadiz, then Cadiz water could be treated or blended before it reaches any water user to meet any new standard .
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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