UPDATE NOV 2019: Although the Cadiz Valley is located within Mojave Trails National Monument, it was previously separately listed as one of the Top 5 threatened places due to a specific threat to that region – the Cadiz water project. Los Angeles-based Cadiz, Inc. had submitted a proposal to mine up to 16 billion gallons of water per year from an aquifer that lies underneath the Cadiz Valley and the Mojave National Preserve.
However, on July 31, 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB307 into law. SB307 ensures that independent scientific analysis is conducted and reviewed in a public and transparent process. This process will determine if any major water transfer project in the Mojave Desert will unreasonably affect the environment, including ground water, prior to any project being approved. SB307 sets up a standard of review that would be impossible for the Cadiz water project to meet, thereby putting an end to the project.
ORIGINAL POST: While this area lies within the previously mentioned Mojave Trails National Monument, the Cadiz water project represents an entirely separate threat. The Cadiz Valley is a jaw-dropping representation of the California desert, with beautiful wildflowers, sand dunes, mountains, and all types of desert wildlife. Within Mojave Trails, Bonanza Spring – the largest spring within 1,000 square miles – forms a spectacular wetland area and reveals the large aquifer that lies underneath the region. This groundwater is essential for all desert wildlife and Native American tribes who have lived in and around this region for thousands of years.
Los Angeles-based Cadiz, Inc. has submitted a proposal to mine up to 16 billion gallons of water from the aquifer a year, for 50 years, and sell it to cities across southern California. This is more groundwater than the natural recharge rate of the aquifer, threatening the Mojave National Preserve, Mojave Trails National Monument, and all other surrounding monuments and wilderness areas. While Cadiz, Inc. maintains that pumping the groundwater would not harm the areas various springs, namely Bonanza Spring, a recent study and peer-reviewed paper have proved that Bonanza Spring is fed by the very groundwater that Cadiz, Inc. would be pumping and selling on the market. (For a great map giving geographic context to this issue, check out the Mojave Desert Land Trusts map here.)
Water is essential to every form of life in the desert. Withdrawing groundwater at the proposed rate would cause irreparable damage to the oasis created by Bonanza Spring, with its assortment of native plants, birds, bighorn sheep, and other key species. Unsurprisingly, Cadiz, Inc. geologists find no issue with the amount of water that would be withdrawn, claiming that the spring is not fed by groundwater (contradicting the peer-reviewed study). The spring is essential to maintaining the biodiversity of the Mojave, one of the unique values underlying the original monument designation.
This project was blocked several times by a number of different agencies, including the Obama administration. However, under President Trump, Cadiz, Inc. has avoided adequate NEPA and CEQA processes and federal oversight. David Bernhardt, Trump’s Deputy Interior Secretary, is a former Cadiz lobbyist and current Cadiz shareholder. Personal interests are overriding the due process, enabling over-withdrawal of groundwater and placing the future of sacred springs, native plants, and animal migrations at high risk just to turn a profit selling water to a region that is already attempting more sustainable water practices. The Cadiz water project is the opposite of sustainable. It is a poor attempt to exploit our natural resources and ignore previous decisions and regulations that dismissed the project.
The future of this project is uncertain. Despite the Trump administration’s support, Cadiz, Inc. has faced numerous setbacks thanks to elected officials including Senator Dianne Feinstein, Governor Jerry Brown, and the Metropolitan Water District. Make sure to encourage your representatives to stand up and protect the state’s groundwater and public lands by showing your support through letters and phone calls.