HAF Statement: Study Disputes Groundwater Recharge Rates Used by Cadiz

WASHINGTON – Maite Arce, president and CEO of Hispanic Access Foundation, released the following statement in response to a peer-reviewed journal article that raises serious concerns about the Cadiz Water Project, a plan that would send water to Los Angeles and Orange counties by pumping groundwater from underneath a national park, national monument and other public lands in the Mojave Desert.  

The study determined that much of the water from five springs in Mojave Trails National Monument last fell as rain thousands of years ago and groundwater recharge rates have been significantly overstated by Cadiz, Inc. Cadiz’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR) claims that none of the area’s springs are connected to the aquifer they would tap and that the water found in springs comes entirely from recent local precipitation. But water coming from local rainfall would be much younger and the age of the five springs’ water, revealed through radiocarbon analyses, means the springs must be fed by deep groundwater reserves. The springs’ connection to the aquifer and slow recharge rates means that if the water table drops by even a foot, the springs could dry, depriving desert wildlife of critical water sources.

“The Cadiz water extraction project will supply less than one percent of the water needed by Californian cities, but the true costs will be exorbitant. This water is the precious life source for the entire desert region and its absence will lead to the catastrophic and irreversible collapse of its ecosystem. The resulting impacts, which could affect the region’s tourism and recreation economies, would be felt by the predominately Latino California desert population for generations to come.

“Cadiz has long argued its project wouldn't harm desert ecosystems. However, since the late 1990s, the Metropolitan Water District has rejected this project, federal agencies have corrected Cadiz’s flawed science and scientists have determined that the Cadiz project would draw out up to 10 times more water from the desert aquifer than can be naturally recharged. And now we have even more evidence – peer-reviewed and published – that support for the Cadiz Water Project is misguided and the science backing it up is flawed. 

“Water is an ongoing issue in California. From contaminated drinking water in hundreds of California communities to prolonged drought that has the Salton Sea on the verge of initiating a massive health crisis, we understand the desire to develop these resources. But this isn’t the solution – we can’t risk one of the region’s main sources of life that if lost would devastate ecosystems, economies and livelihoods.”

A Feb. 2018 statewide survey of California voters, commissioned by Hispanic Access Foundation and conducted by David Binder Research, found that by more than a 3 to 1 margin, voters are more likely to agree (67 percent) that pumping will drain the underground water sources, and dry up already scarce desert springs that wildlife need for survival. Only 19 percent agree that this project will create jobs and help ensure a reliable water supply for Southern California.

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