Q. Why is the Project needed?
A. California has and will continue to suffer from years of drought conditions, and Southern California in particular faces a long-term water crisis due to population growth, infrastructure deficiencies and regulatory restrictions on its water supplies imported from Northern California and the Colorado River. Despite ongoing and planned water conservation projects, existing water supplies are insufficient to meet the long-term needs of the region. Thus, local water providers are working to identify new, reliable, high-quality water supplies to ensure they can continue to meet their customers’ needs and keep ratepayers’ costs low – particularly in low-income, densely populated, urban communities that cannot afford to invest in conservation technology or new supplies. By sustainably conserving water that is currently being lost to evaporation, the Cadiz Water Project will create a new water supply that can serve up to 400,000 people a year and new groundwater storage capacity that can help ensure water reliability during times of drought.
Q: Where is the proposed Project located?
A. The Cadiz Water Project is located in the Mojave Desert at Cadiz, California, approximately 80 miles east of Barstow, California. The Project is located entirely on private property owned by Cadiz, Inc. 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.
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. In addition, Cadiz has reserved 20 percent of Project supplies for use by any San Bernardino County-based water agency, and the County also has authority over the project under its approved groundwater management plan. The Arizona & California Railroad Company, which owns the right-of-way where the conveyance pipeline is proposed to be constructed, will also receive water and other benefits from the Project to serve critical railroad purposes.
Q. What are the benefits of the Project?
A. According to a study published by Inland Empire economist Dr. John Husing, the Project will 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.
Moreover, 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 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. Southern California economics firm Stratecon estimates that the availability of the Project’s water supplies in the region could result in $6.1 billion in savings and avoided costs for ratepayers over a 50-year period.
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 salinity and 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 billions of gallons of water every year for beneficial use throughout Southern California.
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. Based on a model developed by the USGS, the long-term average recharge rate is estimated to be 32,000 acre-feet per year.
Q. How much water can be delivered to participants?
A. 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 as drinking water for Southern California communities. This is enough water to serve about 400,000 people per year and roughly the same amount of water as would be used to farm the Cadiz Valley properties instead.
Q. What is the quality of the groundwater that would be withdrawn from the aquifer?
A. Cadiz water meets all state and federal drinking water standards without treatment. The Project has further committed to meet any and all supplemental standards established by partner water agencies. The quality of Cadiz’s water has been thoroughly reviewed and assessed as part of the CEQA review process and is continually monitored by San Bernardino County as part of our ongoing agricultural operations.
Q: Can the Project operate sustainably, without harm to the desert?
A. From the start, the Cadiz Water Project has been committed to environmental safety and sustainability. To ensure the aquifer and desert environment are always protected, there have been extensive studies of the hydrology and geology of the Cadiz Valley, Project operations have been modeled and intentionally limited, and the Project’s Groundwater Management and Mitigation Plan have been reviewed and approved by San Bernardino County and the California Courts. This groundwater management plan in particular gives San Bernardino County the authority to continually monitor groundwater levels at the Project site and halt operations if levels fall more than anticipated or if any other negative impacts are detected. Independent experts, public agency decisions and 12 California court opinions have reviewed the science and the CEQA documents that supported and validated the Project’s approval and concluded that the Cadiz Water Project will not harm the Mojave Desert or the surrounding ecosystem.
Q. What type of facilities will be constructed?
A. Project facilities will 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 existing agricultural land and other private lands. A wellfield will 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 will be transferred to the water Project upon completion of Project construction.
A 43-mile underground steel pipeline will also be constructed and buried within a privately owned and previously disturbed active 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 will add capacity to the Phase 1 wellfield and pipeline to provide 1 million acre-feet of groundwater storage space in the aquifer system for water imported to the Project area. Recharge basins will 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 will be held and maintained in storage in the aquifer system underground using the wellfield.
Q. What benefits would Phase 2 of the project provide?
A. The addition of 1 million acre-feet of new groundwater storage close to Southern California will increase the region’s ability to manage water during droughts and will require less energy for pumping than more distant water storage options. Additionally, because this phase could add a connection from the State Water Project at Barstow to Cadiz, both Northern California and Colorado River water could be stored at Cadiz, providing greater water management flexibility for multiple local and state water providers.
Q. Has the Project been subject to all relevant regulatory processes, including public commentary?
A. The Cadiz Water Project has gone through a thorough, transparent environmental review and approval in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the most stringent environmental review law in the nation. Numerous state, local and federal agencies participated in the CEQA review starting in 2011, and multiple public hearings were held as part of this process. The Project’s CEQA approval was further upheld by the California Superior Court and the Court of Appeal. No federal environmental review is needed because the Project would not be built on federal lands.