Cadiz Water Project | Frequently Asked Questions


 
 
 
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Where will the Project be located?

Why is the Project needed?

Who is participating in the Project?

What are the benefits of the Project?

Where does the water come from?

Is the water supply renewable?

How much water can be sustainably delivered to participants?

What is the quality of the water at Cadiz?

Has the hydrology of the Cadiz Valley and surrounding area been studied? Can the Project operate sustainably?

What type of Project facilities will be constructed?

Has the Project been subject to all required regulatory processes, including public commentary?

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Q.  Where is the proposed Project located?


A.    The Cadiz Water Project is located in the Mojave Desert at 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 located on the Company’s property and a conveyance pipeline is planned for the Arizona & California Railroad (ARZC) right-of-way to connect the Project wellfield to the Colorado River Aqueduct near Rice, California. Cadiz Inc. is the largest private landowner in the area with over 45,000 acres (70 square miles) of private land.<back>

Q.  Why is the Project needed?

A.    The Southern California area is a semi-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 work to conserve water resources and also identify reliable, high-quality and affordable new water supplies in order 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, even in wet years, because of regulations and allocation restrictions. The Cadiz Project offers certainty in both wet and dry years that water will be available. <back>

Q.  Who is participating in the Project?

A.    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, 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, Otay Water District, Lake Arrowhead Community Services District, the City of Indio and Jurupa Community Services District. Cadiz reserved 20% of Project supplies for use by any San Bernardino County-based water agency.The Arizona & California Railroad Company, which owns the right-of-way where the conveyance pipeline is proposed to be constructed, is also participating in the Cadiz Water Project and will be receiving water and other benefits from the Project to serve critical railroad purposes. <back>

Q.  What are the benefits of the Project?

A.    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 and 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 regulatory restrictions even in wet years. Cadiz is closer to Southern California population centers than the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta or the Colorado River, so considerably less energy will be needed to move Project water. This will 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 and improve water quality by lowering the salt content in the Colorado River Aqueduct.

In a white paper released in January 2014, Southern California economics 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. <back>

Q.   Where does the water come from?
A.    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 at the higher elevations of the watersheds as rain and snow. Much of this water gradually percolates underground and is stored deep beneath the surface in the aquifer system. The highly porous underlying rock layers provide ideal conditions for storage of this pure water; research has found that more than 20 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.

The groundwater naturally flows downhill through the aquifer system over hundreds of years and ultimately reaches the 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. <back>

Q.  Is the water supply renewable?

A.    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 computer model called INFIL 3.0, which uses real data about a local area and local conditions 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 within the Fenner and Orange Blossom watersheds. <back>

Q.  How much water can be delivered to participants?

A.    Withdrawals of water will be monitored by the County of San Bernardino and 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 would be used if Cadiz Inc.’s property, which is currently used for agricultural production, is farmed instead. <back>

Q.  What is the quality of the groundwater that would be withdrawn from the aquifer?

A.    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 Colorado River Aqueduct will save Southern California ratepayers $395 million over the life of the Water Project.

Cadiz groundwater has also been tested for metals, including Chromium. Chromium, a heavy metal and the 11th most common element in the earth’s crust, can naturally occur as Chromium-3 or Chromium-6 in groundwater.

In July 2014, the State of California adopted a new Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for Chromium-6 at 10 parts per billion (ppb). Chromium is naturally occurring at Cadiz – not the result of industrial pollution – and Chromium-6 has been measured at levels slightly above the new MCL in some wells. According to the California Department of Public Health, nearly 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.

In 2015, Cadiz 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.   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. <back>

Q:   Has the hydrology of the Cadiz Valley and surrounding area been studied? Can the Project operate sustainably?

A.    Extensive research by hydrology, geology and environmental experts has been conducted over several years to evaluate, corroborate and validate the Project’s environmental feasibility and sustainability.

From 2009 – 2010, an 18-month study was conducted by industry experts, involving geology mapping, soil samples, precipitation measurements, and hydrology analyses throughout the 1,300 square mile watershed surrounding the Project.   Drawing on a U.S. Geological Survey model designed specifically for Southwestern U.S. desert ecosystems, engineering consulting firms CH2M and GeoScience found that the watershed area has 17-34 million acre feet of water already in storage, and assessed its natural recharge rate at 32,000 acre-feet per year (AFY, or 10.4 billion gallons). This recharge rate is consistent with measured evaporation from the dry lake playas at the base of the watershed, which validates the hydrology computer model’s findings.

In 2011, a peer review committee, called the Groundwater Stewardship Committee, comprised of 13 experts from various fields including geology, groundwater, hydrology, water regulation, environmental protection and academia, reviewed the Project’s technical analysis and concluded that with long-term management and monitoring, the Project could offer a significant water supply without harm to the desert environment based on the number of stringent monitoring measurements being incorporated. All monitoring recommended by the Committee was incorporated into the Project’s groundwater management plan.

In 2011 and 2012, as part of the California environmental permitting process conducted, experts assessed potential Project impacts that could occur if the Project’s hydrological studies were incorrect and had overestimated groundwater supplies and recharge. Using a range of recharge scenarios of 32,000 AFY, 16,000 AFY, and 5,000 AFY, the models found that the Project could operate without harm to vital desert environmental resources even at the lowest recharge rate. The Project’s approved groundwater management plan grants the County of San Bernardino the right to take corrective action or shut down the Project if it results in outcomes not expected or modeled.

The Project’s hydrology and environmental impact analysis was subsequently certified in 2012 as part of an extensive Environmental Impact Report and upheld in Orange County Superior Court in 2014, with no deficiencies identified. <back>

Q.  What type of facilities will be constructed?

A.    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 on 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 to evaporation.  Significant parts of the wellfield and its supporting infrastructure will be built soon to support expanding agricultural operations, then would be transferred to the water Project upon completion of Project construction.

A 43-mile underground steel pipeline would also be constructed and buried within a privately-owned and previously disturbed active railroad right-of-way between Cadiz and Rice, California. The pipeline would 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 Phase 1 wellfield and pipeline to provide 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 Metropolitan Water District and Cadiz built test recharge basins at the site several years ago and found percolation rates to be exceptionally good. The imported water would be held and maintained in storage in the aquifer system underground using the wellfield. <back>

Q.   Has the Project been subject to all relevant regulatory processes, including public commentary?

A.    The Project has been extensively reviewed pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). From 2011 – 2012, the Santa Margarita Water District (“SMWD”) conducted an 18-month public review process, during which informational workshops, educational seminars and public hearings were held to encourage comment and dialogue from the community.

In July 2012, following years of careful technical analysis, field surveys of the Project area and public review, SMWD certified the Final Environmental Impact Report (“FEIR”) and approved the Project under CEQA.  The FEIR summarized that 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.
As a Responsible Agency in the CEQA process, the County of San Bernardino also facilitated a public review process of the Project’s GMMMP. This process resulted in the addition of several provisions that increased public data access and added more stringent environmental requirements. The County approved the GMMMP in October 2012.

In 2012 and 2013, the approvals of the Cadiz Water Project were challenged in Superior Court in nine separate cases. Three cases were withdrawn or otherwise dismissed and six proceeded to trial in December 2013. In May 2014, the Orange County Superior Court denied all CEQA claims against the Project and upheld the Project environmental review and approvals.   These rulings have been appealed to the California Court of Appeals, 4th District and are scheduled to be heard in March 2016.

Prior to construction, the Project will require an agreement with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to convey 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 or a new pipeline right-of-way. <back>