By CLIFFORD YOUNG |
San Bernardino Sun
The Press Enterprise
PUBLISHED: June 16, 2018 at 6:00 pm | UPDATED: June 18, 2018 at 8:24 am
As president of the West Valley Water District Board of Directors, it’s my job to ensure the district provides customers with safe, high-quality, reliable water service at a reasonable rate and in a sustainable manner. But in Southern California, which faces regular droughts and restrictions on traditional supplies, that can be a tall order.
I was disappointed to read Anthony “Butch” Araiza’s op-ed, which not only took liberties with the truth about the Cadiz Water Project’s environmental safety and sustainability, but gave voice to groups that reject sensible water infrastructure projects.
The Cadiz Project will conserve groundwater lost to evaporation in the Mojave Desert and make it available as a municipal water source for 400,000 people. West Valley is not a current customer, but agencies across Southern California would receive water from the project, with 20 percent of supplies reserved for San Bernardino County agencies. A recent poll of county voters revealed strong support for the project and other new supply alternatives that improve water reliability.
The project, which will be built on private agricultural land, has been approved under the California Environmental Quality Act, the nation’s strictest environmental law. This review incorporated feedback from numerous local, state, and federal agencies, NGOs and the public, and was upheld by California’s courts. Ultimately, the process concluded that operations will have no significant impact on the environment and that the project’s groundwater management plan, which San Bernardino County will enforce, ensures desert plants, wildlife and water resources will always be protected.
Critics attempt to undermine this thorough, court-validated review by citing a recent paper funded by a staunch project opponent speculating the Project would damage a desert spring more than 11 miles from operations. The paper ignores extensive geologic and hydrologic site work identifying two convergent fault zones that block upstream groundwater. Based on physical data, Bonanza Spring — located more than 1,400 feet above Project operations — is hydraulically separate from Cadiz operations and receives its water from precipitation above, not the aquifer far below. Scientists, including a former director of the U.S. Geological Survey, have concluded the impacts alleged by the opposition-funded study are impossible. And, the County management plan will ensure that’s the case.
The project will create and support nearly 6,000 jobs — half of which are reserved for San Bernardino County residents, including 10 percent for local veterans. Plus, the project is expected to inject $878 million into the local economy. Contrary to the opposition spin, Cadiz costs are competitive with Metropolitan Water District’s treated rates and less expensive than desalination and recycling. Water rates have escalated significantly over the last 15 years, and lack of reliability too has a cost, especially on our disadvantaged communities, we can’t ignore.
Moreover, because water from Cadiz is less salty than water imported from the Colorado River, the project can reduce the amount of money providers spend removing salts so their water doesn’t damage pipes, faucets and sewer lines — a benefit valued at $400 million. Indeed, Cadiz water presently meets all state and federal drinking water standards without treatment, and Cadiz has further agreed to treat the water beyond those standards to any partners’ water quality needs at its own expense.
Therefore, allegations about Cadiz water quality are incredibly disappointing. Every source of local water must be treated and tested prior to distribution to customers. Implying Cadiz water will harm people is blatant fear-mongering designed to derail a well-designated, environmentally conscious project that has secured approval at every level of government.
Given our ever-growing water supply needs, the last thing we should do is sideline sensible projects. Our focus must be on making available reliable water that protects our local environment — exactly what the Cadiz Water Project proposes to do.
Clifford Young Sr. is board president at West Valley Water District in Rialto, which he joined in 2013, and professor emeritus of public administration at Cal State San Bernardino.