Apr 30 2018

Lucy Dunn: A Misinformation Campaign to Block a New OC Water Source

Orange County is a tale of two water supplies: Much of the north county sits over an abundant aquifer that can meet half or more of the water needs of the communities above it. The south county, unfortunately, has a rockier geology with no significant aquifers, so it is almost wholly reliant on water imported from the Colorado River or Sacramento Delta.

Not unexpectedly, this has led the South County’s water providers to be innovators, with early investments in water recycling, bold initiatives in stormwater reuse, strong support of water conservation and openness to new water sources, like Santa Margarita Water District’s (SMWD) leadership in the approval of the Cadiz Water Project.

Cadiz wants to bring 50,000 acre-feet of water a year – enough for 400,000 people – to the Metropolitan Water District’s service area, and SMWD wants to buy up to 20 percent of it. If the project doesn’t go forward, the water will flow to Mojave Desert dry lakes, where it turns so salty it can burn your skin, then evaporates and is lost. 

With an approved Environmental Impact Report showing no significant impacts that has withstood court challenges, the Cadiz project has successfully navigated California’s environmental review process. But that hasn’t stopped those who want to deprive Southern California of new water sources in the name of stopping growth. Really. There are people who think that way.

They continue to assault the project, and their favorite point of attack is the presumed impact of the project on Bonanza Spring, which is 11 miles away from and 1,000 feet above the proposed Cadiz well field. To my mind, gravity makes water flow down, not up, and that should be the end of it, but gravity is not sufficient proof for these folks.

To finally put the Bonanza Spring argument to rest, Cadiz recently commissioned a study by Miles Kenney, one of the Mojave’s foremost geologists, and Terry Foreman, Cadiz’s lead hydrologist. Their peer-reviewed analysis proved that two converging faults meet at the spring site, creating both the watershed above that feeds the spring and the hard rock walls below that separate it from the aquifer deep beneath the valley floor.

Rather than accept fact, the project’s opponents paid for their own study. By employing a more speculative water chemistry analysis and ignoring the existence of the fault, this study defied gravity and hydrology – and the bone-dry strata of rock between the spring and the aquifer below – and claimed pumping would dry up the spring.

Which study did California’s green-leaning media rush to cover? The latter of course.

It’s yet another example of the misinformation campaigns that are being waged against projects designed to build and support our local economy.  To read the Cadiz rebuttal and criticism of bias in the media’s coverage, click here.

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