To meet the water supply challenges that face Southern Californians, we will need to implement a variety of supply options. Different options need fair review and deserve accurate portrayals. Unfortunately, in their recent criticism of the Cadiz Water Project, “Coastkeeper speaks out against Cadiz desert water pumping plan ,” O.C. Coastkeeper seemed intent on fabricating what the Cadiz Water Project actually is, employing untruths to foment opposition to this new water supply opportunity.
As designed, reviewed, approved and validated, the Cadiz Water Project will make available to Southern California water agencies an annual average of 50,000 acre-feet of new water per year, enough for 400,000 people. In absence of the Project, all of this water will be lost to evaporation under natural conditions in the Mojave Desert – a waste of over 16 billion gallons of water each year.
The Project will be constructed on private land at the base of a 1,300 square mile watershed. There is more water in the groundwater system flowing beneath the property than in Lake Mead, our nation’s largest surface reservoir. No plants or animals rely on this groundwater, which is buried more than 200 feet below ground surface at Cadiz.
The water in the system is naturally recharged by precipitation that falls in the higher elevations and eventually flows under the Cadiz property on its way to the hyper-saline dry lakes, where it wicks up to the surface and evaporates in the desert sun.
Contrary to Coastkeeper’s fabrications, the Project will not “mine” or “drain” the desert, or harm any national park, preserve or monument. Pumping, in fact, is limited to less than one percent per year of the water that is in the system under a significant groundwater management program enforced by the County of San Bernardino that limits withdrawals and will monitor for any impacts.
It is not just our opinion that the Project’s facilities and operations will not harm the environment. The Project was thoroughly analyzed under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the most rigorous environmental law in the nation. It did not, as Coastkeeper stated, avoid environmental review. Thousands of pages of studies document that it will cause no significant environmental impacts. These studies were peer reviewed, then approved by publicly elected boards, then upheld in Superior Court against challenges and then sustained again by the California Court of Appeal. Not one flaw was found in the entire environmental review during that six-year process.
These facts were detailed in a letter made available at a recent Orange County Water District (OCWD) public hearing Coastkeeper attended. Cadiz trusts the same professionals that OCWD does. The three scientists who wrote the letter, all of whom have previously consulted for OCWD and reviewed the Water Project, wrote the District, summarizing, “Robust peer review, study and analysis showed that the Cadiz Water Project operations present no threat whatsoever to the Mojave Desert ecosystem.”
Not many water projects can represent that operations will not cause adverse impacts to the environment. But we’ve openly embraced the gauntlet of California’s environmental review standards and met every test laid before us. Coastkeeper’s website  says it works to “achieve healthy, accessible and sustainable water resources for the region,” a laudable goal.
The Cadiz Water Project shares in it and has worked hard to realize it. It’s time for Coastkeeper to stop propagating falsehoods and discover what the Project really is – an environmentally benign water supply for Southern California – instead of what urban legend would like it to be. To learn more visit www.cadizwaterproject.com .