Conservation, recovery and storage of desert water

Cadiz Water Project2020-10-08T14:35:03-07:00

Finding a Sustainable Water Source

A reliable water supply is essential to the health of Southern California’s economy and the prosperity of our communities. The Cadiz Water Project aims to capture and conserve water that presently is lost to evaporation, and provide a new, reliable water supply to 100,000 families.


Southern California’s recent drought has brought to light the importance of finding sustainable water in this part of the state. The Cadiz Water Project may be just the thing.

The Cadiz Water Project is a public-private partnership between Cadiz, Inc. and the Santa Margarita Water District, Orange County’s second-largest water agency. It is an innovative and new sustainable water source. Approximately 400,000 people a year could benefit by capturing and conserving water currently lost to evaporation in the eastern Mojave Desert.

When the National Governors Association circulated a preliminary list of infrastructure projects in December, the Cadiz Valley water project was among them.  The Project will be located at the base of a significant desert watershed in Cadiz, approximately 80 miles from Barstow, California.

The Fenner Valley and Orange Blossom Wash watersheds span approximately 1,300 square miles (approximately the size of the State of Rhode Island). Rain and snow that fall in the upper elevations works its way down and goes below the ground. It filters through cracks in bedrock and porous alluvial, finally ending up in a huge underground aquifer. The amount of water in that aquifer is about as much as Lake Mead, America’s largest reservoir.


Over the course of 50 years, approximately 5 percent of the aquifer’s water will be pumped, providing enough water for 400,000 Californians each year. Since most Southern California communities, including towns across the inland desert region all the way to the coast, currently depend upon increasingly unreliable water supplies from northern California and the Colorado River, this project will help serve them. This includes agencies in Riverside, San Bernardino, Orange, Los Angeles, Imperial and Ventura Counties

Once construction begins, the Water Project will generate nearly a billion dollars of economic stimulus, employ thousands of people and provide more than a billion dollars in water quality and water supply reliability benefits to portions of six Southern California counties, all without public subsidies of any kind.


The Water Project will create a new water supply for 400,000 people across the region. Water providers from six Southern California counties have reserved water supplies from the Project, which is a new local source that will reduce our reliance on imports from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the Colorado River, and augment supplies depleted by drought.

Inland Empire economist, Dr. John Husing has estimated that construction of Phase 1 of the Project will contribute $878 million to the San Bernardino County economy and create nearly 3,000 jobs. The Water Project has pledged to spend 80% of its infrastructure costs on local businesses and has dedicated a majority of jobs to local residents and unions, including 10% of jobs reserved for veterans.
Over the 50 year life of the Water Project; water that would have been lost to evaporation or salt contamination without the Project.
The native groundwater at Cadiz is very low in total dissolved solids or TDS, which is the measurement of salinity or the concentration of salts and minerals (such as sodium, calcium and chloride) within a water supply. High salinity is known to cause deterioration of residential, commercial, and industrial appliances, pipe infrastructure and fixtures and requires treatment. The Colorado River Aqueduct (CRA), which is one of the main sources of water supply for Southern California, is known to contain high TDS levels and water from the CRA must be treated before it can be delivered to homes and businesses. Engineering firm CH2M Hill estimates that introducing Cadiz water into the CRA will realize nearly $400 million in savings to regional ratepayers over the 50-year life of the Project.
The Water Project’s facilities will be built entirely on privately owned land and the pipeline will be constructed alongside active railroad tracks, causing no impacts to public desert lands. In addition, the Project will have no impacts on plants, animals, or mountain springs in the area, with operations governed by an extensive groundwater management plan enforced by the County of San Bernardino.
As a southern California based, local water supply, it can be transported shorter distances at lower cost compared to water imported from Northern California or Lake Mead.
The Project will provide water to the local Arizona & California Railroad for critical railroad purposes such as fire suppression, and generate power via in-line hydropower turbines enabling transloading opportunities for regional train and truck cargo and new access to power in the region. The Project will also improve the railroad’s access to highways via a new pipeline access road, which is expected to shorten crew change times and travel times in case of emergency.

Potentially, water could be imported from the Colorado River Aqueduct or State Water Project and banked in the aquifer, taking advantage of the facilities built on private land. Storage of imported water in phase 2 of the project will offer new savings opportunities for surplus water in wet years, providing dry-year reliability, and protection from evaporative losses.


“The opponents of the Cadiz project are attempting an end-run around the project’s lawful CEQA process. If this bill becomes law, it would not only affect this project, but also set a dangerous precedent for similar regulatory abuse for any other development project in the state.”

Hasan Ikhrata, Executive Director, Southern California Association of Governments

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