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. 

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