Water Chemistry Expert Identifies Serious Flaws in Opponent-Funded Papers On Cadiz Water Project and Mojave Desert Springs

Water Chemistry Expert Identifies Serious Flaws in Opponent-Funded Papers On Cadiz Water Project and Mojave Desert Springs

Last week, the Fenner Valley Water Authority (FVWA),the public agency charged with operating the Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project (the Project), released new analysis by a water chemistry expert that critiques two opposition-funded papers published last year regarding springs in the watershed surrounding the Project area. The analysis presented to FVWA identified numerous methodological errors in the opposition-funded papers and concluded that allegations of a hydraulic connection between the aquifer system at Cadiz and desert springs based on water chemistry is “inconsistent and incompatible with the field evidence.”

The analysis was prepared for FVWA by Dr. David K. Kreamer, a Professor of Hydrology & Geosciences at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas who specializes in research on groundwater quality and chemistry. His work reviews the following studies funded by Mojave Desert Land Trust, an organization opposed to the Project: (1) “Understanding the source of water for selected springs within the Mojave Trails National Monument, California”by Andy Zdon, M. Lee Davisson and Adam H. Love, published in Environmental Forensics and (2) “Use of Radiocarbon Ages to Narrow Groundwater Recharge Estimates in the Southeastern Mojave Desert, USA,” by Zdon and Love, published in Hydrology.

FVWA requested Dr. Kreamer’s review because the Zdon studies are inconsistent with determinations in the Project’s Environmental Impact Report, and with the findings of a January 2018 studyby geologist Miles Kenney and hydrogeologist Terry Foreman related to Bonanza Spring, which is 11 miles from the Cadiz Project wellfield and 1,100 feet higher in elevation. The Kenney/Foreman study identified two geological faults that intersect at Bonanza Spring, creating an impermeable barrier that has caused an isolated groundwater catchment of 2,300 acres to form more than 1,000 feet above the Fenner Valley aquifer, while also blocking any direct connection to the spring from the aquifer below.

The Zdon reports rely on water chemistry tests to establish the hypothesis of a potential connection between springs in the upper elevation of mountains surrounding the Fenner Valley aquifer, and Project operations at the Valley floor, without regard for physical geology. In his analysis, Dr. Kreamer focuses on weaknesses in the water quality analysis conducted in the Zdon studies, finding in many instances that the data is unreliable and unsupported.

FVWA’s staff report on the Kreamer presentation also states, “Dr. Kreamer’s papers outline a number of factors contributing to the inconsistencies and deficiencies, including methodological errors, and conclude that the findings of the EIR and more recent work of Kenney/Foreman presents the more reasonable conclusion about area springs.”

Dr. Kreamer also finds that the opponent-funded reports don’t apply standard methodologies to conduct their data analysis and, more significantly, fail to present a credible model under which groundwater could move in the way the authors propose that it must in order to reach the spring. In addition, Dr. Kreamer highlights many flaws in the use of spring data to estimate groundwater recharge rates in the area, pointing out that the consensus view of scientists is that springs are poor locations to attempt to calculate average groundwater residence time.

Key quotations from Dr. Kreamer’s reports [emphasis added]:

  • “Love and Zdon (2018) contains serious methodological omissions in interpretation of recharge and average groundwater residence time, which ultimately influence their interpretation for the hydrogeology of the study area.”

  • “The questionable speculation … that recharge for springs like Bonanza occurs in the distant New York or Providence Mountains, then moves tens of miles through basin alluvium and then resurges upward over a thousand feet through undefined mechanisms, is inconsistent and incompatible with the field evidence.”

  • One reason the authors assume Bonanza spring water is sourced from deep basin fill water (and not the upgradient Clipper Mountains directly above the spring) is the water’s temperature. … This is based on the author’s reporting a temperature of 27.5 (or 81.5°F) for the water at Bonanza Spring in the manuscript, which they assume is geothermally influenced. This value, however, directly conflicts with a value of 14.2°C (57.6°F) reported by Andy Zdon and Associates (2016) for Bonanza Spring. … Cool water documented at the spring by Andy Zdon and Associates (2016) is inconsistent with a deep source; rather this variation is indicative of a more local source, influenced by seasonal or diurnal variation.”

From the start, the Cadiz Water Project has been committed to environmental safety and sustainability, and we are proud of the numerous validations the Project has already received, including its approval under the California Environmental Quality Act, its permitting by San Bernardino County and its affirmation by California’s Courts. Moreover, the Project’s state-of-the-art Groundwater Management, Monitoring, and Mitigation Plan, which will be enforced by the County, protects the local environment through extensive monitoring, operating criteria – including a hard “floor” to operations – and immediate corrective measures to ensure the aquifer is managed sustainably before, during and after the life of the project.

Dr. Kreamer’s analysis of the two opponent-funded reports seriously undermines opponents’ theories about potential impacts to springs attributable to the Project and further validates the extensive body of work confirming that the Cadiz Water Project can deliver a new source of water to 400,000 people across Southern California in a safe and sustainable way.

To view Dr. Kreamer’s biography and qualifications, click here.

To read Dr. Kreamer’s reports in full, click here.

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