Rancho Santa Margarita, meet Calleguas

UPDATED 5/11/2012: As the board of the Rancho Santa Margarita Water District wades through the Draft Environmental Impact Report produced for them by their partners at Cadiz, Inc in the bid to involve the Orange County municipal water company in a water mining scheme in the Mojave Desert, let us pause to look at some bona fides of a lead Cadiz consultant. Cadiz engineer Terry Foreman would have Rancho Santa Margarita believe that “using 50,000 acre-feet per year is optimal for conservation” from a basin with recharge that is perhaps one tenth of that, and that mining groundwater poses “no long-term impacts to the desert environment.”

Believe that and you’ll believe in chocolate cake diets, so it seems unlikely that anyone involved in the project really cares about the Mojave. Yet when it comes to cost, the Rancho Santa Margarita Water District board of directors

Just say ‘no’ to Cadiz stock tease

Cadiz, Inc today announced that it has optioned use of a derelict gas line to ship northern Californian water to the Mojave Desert for long-term storage by southern Californian cities. Personally, I’m waiting for the announcement that it will be helicoptering in melting icebergs whose freshwater might otherwise be lost to salty seas. For more than a decade, Cadiz has styled its proposal to pump from 50,000 to 80,000 acre feet of water a year from a Mojave dry valley as a “conservation” project on the grounds that in addition to pulling water it could also conceivably bank surplus water from the Colorado River. 

Art, water and money

This detail from a 1922 drawing in the Los Angeles Times shows how nesting massive reservoirs in the peaks of the San Gabriel Mountains might check floods and impound water for Southern California. Nothing near the project depicted was realized. The graphic artist wasn’t a seismologist, never mind hydrologist. He drew what was described to him.

Nearly a century has passed but graphics depicting new water projects for Southern California remain almost as antique in their wishfulness. Last week, the Orange County Register produced a beautiful drawing showing how pumps might be placed in the Cadiz Valley in such a way that water supposedly “lost” to evaporation might be captured by sinking wells hundreds of feet below the floor of the Mojave Desert. 

High good, low bad: Mead in January 2012

Notes about Colorado River snowpack in January 2012, Lake Mead and public comment on the DEIR being circulated on the Cadiz Valley groundwater mining project.

Commenting on the unspeakable

Five years ago, when asked about a plan by Las Vegas to pump groundwater around the Great Basin National Park, Nevadan hydrologists who learned that I was a reporter based in Southern California used to respond, “If you think that’s bad, you should look at Cadiz.”

Nevadans live to insult Californians, but it was said so many times by so many hydrologists that roughly two-and-a-half years ago, I started looking at this worse-than-Vegas Cadiz.

It wasn’t the Spanish port, but a little-known unincorporated pocket of the Californian Mojave just visible in the upper right hand corner of this lovely old map. Thanks to a water project backed by some of the golden state’s leading politicians, even five years ago Cadiz had another meaning. It was hydrology shorthand for “water grab.”

As I began studying it, incredulous dispatches on Cadiz became an early and running theme in this blog. We

« go backkeep looking »
  • After the lawn


  • As you were saying: Comments

  • As I was saying: Recent posts

  • Garden blogs


  • Chance of Rain on Twitter

  • Contact

    Emily Green by e-mail at emily.green [at] mac.com
  • Categories