Stop the Cadiz Water Project

For those of us who consider ourselves Desert Defenders and seek to resist the exploitation and resource extraction at the hands of big business, the threats are legion. The desert is rich in many types of resources and those bent on making a fortune off of these resources have a long history of doing so with little regard for the living desert itself.  The modern fight to save the desert, or more specifically, the living ecologies of the desert, is at least a hundred years old. Every victory (like the designating of the Mojave Trail National Monument this year), is challenged again and again by those who forego consequence for profit.

The Cadiz Project is not about water for Orange County because the people need the water. The Cadiz Project is not about creating jobs and supporting an economy. The Cadiz Project is not about anything but for wasteful and destructive, for-profit resource extraction.

We are working with the National Parks Conservation Association to gather the signatures, letters and notes of professionals, concerned citizens and business owners and deliver them en masse, to the State Director of the Bureau of Land Management, and to the Orange County Water District to let them know how we feel about their ruthless plan to destroy the aquifer under the Cadiz. Please review this letter and fact sheet and let me know if we can add your voice to ours by send my an email


The letter-draft we would like to add your name to

Members of the Board
Orange County Water District
Or 18700 Ward Street
Fountain Valley, CA 92708

Jerome E. Perez, State Director
Bureau of Land Management
California State Office
2800 Cottage Way, Suite W-1623
Sacramento, CA

RE- Cadiz Project Concerns: Orange County Water District Cadiz Water Purchase and BLM’s Cadiz Railroad Right of Way Administrative Decision
Dear Director Perez:

We are businesses and artists from throughout the state of California who are gravely concerned about the impacts of the Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Stewardship project on water resources and wildlife on our protected federal lands such as the newly created Mojave Trails National Monument and the Mojave National Preserve.

The Cadiz project would aggressively mine one to two million acre feet of water from a fragile Mojave Desert aquifer over a fifty year period, resulting in overdraft of that aquifer, and transferring the majority of it to urban and suburban water districts in Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside Counties to fuel unsustainable growth during the worst drought in California history.

As artists, we recognize that throughout the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries the California desert has inspired countless artists and works of art- from the landscape paintings of John Hilton to the sculptures of Simi Dabah to the rock n roll music of Keith Richards, the Eagles and Gram Parsons.  As business owners, we understand that the preservation and protection of our national parks and other protected federal lands- their wildlife, water resources and scenic vistas- are a sound economic investment that helps build the local and regional tourism based economy.

Due to the threat the Cadiz Project poses on water resources, federal lands and wildlife, the undersigned urge the Orange County Water District (OCWD) and the Bureau of Land Management to take the following actions related to the Cadiz Project:

  • Orange County Water District-

We urge the OCWD to avoid entering into any sort of water purchase agreement with the Cadiz Inc. due to the project’s exorbitant water cost per acre foot, harmful environmental impacts to water resources in the newly created Mojave Trails National Monument and adjacent Mojave National Preserve; the unsustainable nature of the project and the deeply flawed science associated with its environmental documents.  This action is particularly important because the Orange County Water District is a proven leader in innovative, safe and reliable sources of drinking water.

  • Bureau of Land Management (BLM)

BLM must maintain their Administrative Decision regarding the Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project’s use of the Arizona and California Railroad Right of Way for their 43 mile water conveyance pipeline and continue to require federal authorization and review of this project component.

Specifically, we argue that federal permission and federal review for the construction of the 43 mile, 7 foot diameter water conveyance pipeline that would connect the Cadiz pumps on private land with the Colorado River Aqueduct, requires federal agencies to take a hard look at this piece of infrastructure, as well as the entire Cadiz Project’s impact on public trust resources like water and wildlife in the newly created Mojave Trails National Monument and adjacent Mojave National Preserve.

We maintain that the Cadiz Project providing water and other improvements for the Arizona and California Railroad are really contrivances and do not fundamentally derive from nor further the railroad’s purpose as they are not related directly to railroad construction or operations.  In the coming months, there may be those who challenge the BLM’s administrative decision on this issue and we urge BLM to stand firm and serve the public interest.

Thank you for your time and consideration of these important issues!



Mojave riparian environments are home to hundreds of species of plants, mammals, reptiles, insects and birds

Cadiz Valley Water Project Fact Sheet

A private entrepreneur, the Cadiz, Inc., is proposing to pump 1 to 2 million acre feet of water from a fragile Mojave Desert aquifer over a period of 50 years and send the majority of that water to Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside County water districts. 
The project’s aggressive pumping could impact seeps and springs in the Mojave National Preserve and those in the newly created Mojave Trails National Monument, like Bonanza Spring.  Importantly, independent scientists argue that Cadiz’s science is all wet!  The company’s estimates of aquifer recharge rates and impacts are fundamentally unrealistic, are not sustainable and jeopardize the future of water resources.
Although the Cadiz Project isn’t a conservation project as it doesn’t save a drop for our children or grandchildren. The only thing green about it are the profits- Cadiz stands to make 1 to 2 billion dollars over 50 years, while exploiting public water that originates on federal land.

Cadiz’s Flawed Science

  • Cadiz Inc.’s aggressive pumping would remove an average of 50,000 acre feet over a 50 year period totaling between 1 and 2 million acre feet over the fifty year life of the project and claims that there will be absolutely no impacts to seeps, springs or other sensitive receptors. 
  • The National Park Service states that some of Mojave National Preserve springs are likely connected to the aquifer to be subject to Cadiz project pumping.
  • Other independent hydrologists point out that the cone of depression from the Cadiz project approaches Bonanza Spring in the newly created Mojave Trails National Monument and that in several scenarios the cone of depression continues to expand even when pumping stops, indicating a delayed response in the aquifer and that impacts could continue after the termination of the project.
  • Cadiz Inc. claims that the recharge rate of the target aquifer is 32,500-acre feet/year while independent scientists estimate recharge lies between 2,000 and 10,000-acre feet/year.  This means that Cadiz’s aggressive pumping will put the aquifer into significant overdraft conditions for the life of the project.
  • Removal of groundwater may have the same air quality effect as is currently present at Owens Lake in the Eastern Sierra (the largest source of PM10 in the U.S.).  2001 estimates for mitigation of Owens Lake was $60 million.  This private developer, Cadiz, has not provided resources or has the capability for mitigation in the event similar processes to the Eastern Sierra would be needed for Cadiz and Bristol Dry Lakes.

A Federal Review is Required
Despite the Cadiz Inc.’s claims, a comprehensive federal environmental review for the project’s use of the Arizona/California Railroad Right of Way for their 43 mile Cadiz Project water conveyance pipeline that would tie into the Colorado River Aqueduct is required.
But instead of following the letter of the law and conducting a comprehensive federal review as is required by any other developer on a federal Railroad Right of Way for their water conveyance pipeline, the company continues to argue that their 7 foot diameter water pipeline should be exempt from further scrutiny because it furthers the purpose of the railroad

  • In a 2014 decision, the BLM has stated that the Cadiz Inc. must go through a federal environmental review for use of the Arizona/California Railroad Right of Way for their 7 foot water conveyance pipeline that would transfer water to the Colorado River Aqueduct.
  • However, Cadiz has, and is trying to circumvent the law of the land by misinterpreting language in the 1875 Railroad Right of Way Act that states that projects that, “Further” a railroad purpose do not need to go through a federal review.  Cadiz contrived arguments that they are “Furthering” a railroad purpose include the following:
  • Providing water to wash dirty freight train cars.
  • Developing a tourist steam engine that uses water and will one day bring visitors into the undeveloped Cadiz Valley.
  • Placing fire hydrants along the Arizona/California Railroad, even though the Federal Railroad Administration states this action is not industry standard.

Mojave Trails National Monument underscores the need for a Federal Review
In February of 2016, President Barack Obama used the 1906 Antiquities Act to designate the 1.6 million acre Mojave Trails National Monument in order to protect its spectacular resources in perpetuity for the American people.  The Monument Proclamation specifically calls for the protection of groundwater resources, seeps and springs, underscoring why Cadiz should be required to conduct a full federal review. 
The complex network of groundwater underlying the Mojave Trails area has been the subject of past and ongoing hydrological study. Underground aquifers feed springs and seeps that are important for sensitive ecosystems and wildlife, though specific connections are not yet well understood.”
“The Secretary shall work with appropriate State officials to ensure the availability of water resources, including groundwater resources, needed for monument purposes.”
Moving Forward:

  • No groundwater pumping should occur, in excess of U. S. Geological Survey minimal recharge.
  • Cadiz must go through the proper federal environmental compliance and ROW processes.

For further information contact:
Seth Shteir, Program Manager
National Parks Conservation Association
Joshua Tree, CA

Relevant Media
The Chemehuevi Tribe opposes the Cadiz Project-

Los Angeles Times op-ed highlighting how the politically connected Cadiz Inc. has kept a fundamentally flawed project alive-

Renowned journalist Emily Green explains why the Cadiz Project should not move forward-

Two current environmental law professors and former solicitors at the Department of the Interior applaud the BLM decision requiring the Cadiz Inc. to go through a federal review for their use of a federal railroad right of way-