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.
Located 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.
Untapped, that groundwater flows to highly saline playas or “dry lakes” at the bottom of the watershed. That is where it eventually just evaporates and is lost to the air.
The Cadiz Water Project will manage the groundwater basin through a Groundwater Management Plan approved and enforced by the County of San Bernardino. A wellfield will be built on property held by Cadiz Inc. The company is the largest private landowner in the region with over 45,000 acres (70 square miles) of private land. A conveyance pipeline will be constructed along the Arizona & California Railroad (“ARZC”) right-of-way, connecting the wellfield to the Colorado River Aqueduct near Rice, CA.
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.