Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) today released the following statement after the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California responded to her inquiry about the safety and viability of the Cadiz water extraction project.
- Senator Feinstein’s letter, August 15, 2017
- Metropolitan Water District’s response, September 15, 2017
“For close to two decades, Cadiz has been trying to ram through a water extraction project that would harm the Mojave Desert. And now we hear from the Metropolitan Water District that the water Cadiz wants to extract could contain dangerous chemicals that pose a threat to the safety of Southern California’s water supply.
“The water that Cadiz plans to extract contains numerous contaminants including arsenic and cancer-causing Chromium-6. Left untreated, it could pollute the pristine water of the Colorado River Aqueduct, endangering the health of not only Cadiz’s customers but all 19 million Californians who rely on that water.
“Metropolitan also points out that Cadiz’s proposal is ‘conceptual and incomplete.’ The proposal lacks essential details about how Cadiz plans to build and pay for the massive amount of infrastructure necessary to properly treat and safely integrate its water into the aqueduct.
“This is just the latest independent agency to point out Cadiz’s lack of scientific evidence to support their ridiculous claims. The U.S. Geological Survey has twice affirmed the natural recharge rate for the aquifer is only 2,000 to 10,000 acre-feet per year, significantly lower than the 50,000 acre-feet Cadiz wants to drain each year. And the National Park Service concluded that Cadiz’s estimated annual recharge rates ‘are not reasonable and should not even be considered’ because they are ‘3 to 16 times too high.’
“Cadiz has repeatedly failed to be transparent about its project’s viability and the danger it poses to public health. We can’t sacrifice the health of our citizens and the majesty of our desert just so Cadiz can finally turn a profit.”
The proposed Cadiz water extraction project would drain 50,000 acre-feet of water each year for 50 years from a vital Mojave Desert aquifer, more than five times the natural recharge rate according to the U.S. Geological Survey. USGS reaffirmed that assessment in May 2017, stating “We are not aware of new information that would change our recharge estimates.”
In order to escape a federal environmental review, Cadiz wants to use an existing railroad right-of-way to build its pipeline. This month, the Trump administration weakened an Obama era regulation concerning railroad rights-of-way that had previously halted the project.
In July, Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) introduced AB 1000, the California Desert Protection Act, a state bill that would have stopped Cadiz by requiring stronger environmental review for groundwater projects in the desert. The bill is being blocked by the California Senate Appropriations Committee.
Aquifers sustain life in the desert, including tortoises and bighorn sheep, breathtaking wildflower blooms and Joshua trees. Many of the state’s rare plant and animal species can be found only in the Mojave Desert.
The desert aquifers also support surrounding communities, including Native American tribes, and approximately 2,100 jobs in tourism, mining, ranching and other industries. A world-renowned travel destination, the Mojave generated more than $155 million in the tourism sector last year alone.###