Myths & Facts

Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery, and Storage Project


Myth – Water pumped from the Cadiz project and purchased by the Santa Margarita Water District (SMWD) will not raise costs for ratepayers.

FactRates are actually estimated to increase as much as 35 percent, with ratepayers left holding the bag.

Myth – Cadiz owns the water it proposes to sell so it can really do whatever it wants.

Fact – The water is contained within desert aquifers that have been filling for millions of years. Much of the water Cadiz proposes to extract originates from public lands including national parks. In fact, the National Park Service and the Environmental Protection Agency have both expressed major concerns about the project and uncovered serious flaws with the Draft Economic Impact Report (DEIR).  Cadiz can only appropriate surplus groundwater, and there has been no showing that the groundwater to be pumped out of San Bernardino is surplus.

Myth It makes sense that SWMD will be the Project’s lead agency.

Fact The county inappropriately ceded lead agency to SMWD which is located over 200 miles away from the project site and has no jurisdiction over the groundwater involved. It makes no sense whatsoever!

Myth – Cadiz is planning to finance this multi-million dollar project with private funding.

Fact – Cadiz is seeking tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies to construct the wells and pipelines necessary to extract the water from desert aquifers. However, it does not plan to issue any rebates to taxpayers from the millions of dollars Cadiz stands to make in profit.

Myth – The project would capture and conserve 50,000 acre-feet per year or groundwater without causing significant adverse environmental impacts on the desert environment.

Fact – Cadiz intends to withdraw more water every year than nature puts back in the ground, lowering the groundwater table and depleting the aquifer. In fact, Cadiz is proposing to pump over 16 billion gallons of water, every year, for 50 years. This is a rate of over 150 percent more than natural replenishment rates.  The EIR concedes that recovery of the aquifer system could take almost 400 years after the pumping stops.

Myth – The project will provide for a new, reliable water supply throughout Southern California.

Fact – In its DEIR, Cadiz admits it really doesn’t know the impact of its aggressive water pumping on the desert environment, and have says if it turns out there is a negative impact, it will stop pumping. How is that reliable?

Myth – The proposed groundwater pumping will not impact desert wildlife that relies on springs that occur in the local mountain ranges located throughout the region.

Fact – SMWD’s evaluation of biological impacts did not include the entire project study area; therefore the biological effects are virtually unknown. But does it seem credible that Cadiz could pump so much water out of the desert and have no impact on desert habitats?

Myth – Groundwater withdrawn as a part of the project will be replaced by rainfall and natural recharge.

Fact – Federal hydrologists and scientists say the natural recharge rate is at most half — and could be less than a sixth — of what Cadiz’s paid-for experts say it is. Nearly four centuries would have to pass before aquifer storage fully recovered from the decline proposed by Cadiz.

Myth – Water going to the Santa Margarita Water District will be used to improve the reliability of existing water supplies and would not induce growth beyond SMWD’s service area.

Fact – Although the SMWD downplays growth within its service area, independent analysis has shown there is a “strong nexus between the proposed project and growth inducing impacts” in the area.

Myth – SMWD has followed all of the necessary procedures and abided by all of California’s open meeting laws during this review process.

Fact – According to the Voice of OC, Orange County’s nonprofit investigative news agency, SMWD is one of several water districts under investigation for engaging in as many as 30 secret meetings to advance the Cadiz proposal. And, SMWD voted to approve a letter of intent to negotiate with Cadiz a full year before the first public discussion of the project.

Myth – Cadiz has never said its project would cause significant environmental damage.

Fact – In 1993, Cadiz filed to increase its farming operations using the same water it now proposes to sell to Orange County. Then, it said taking 30,000 AF of water per year would exceed replenishment rates by 2 ½ times, and admitted it would cause significant environmental damage.  Now, Cadiz proposes to pump between 50,000 and 75,000 AFY of water from the desert groundwater, yet this time around claims it will have no environmental impact. 

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