The Groundwater Management Plan for the Cadiz Water Project in the Mojave Desert has been authenticated by a team of experts from four separate engineering firms and was presented to the Three Valleys Municipal Water District at a workshop in Claremont on March 13.
The Ground Water Management, Monitoring, and Mitigation Plan (GMMMP) was approved by the County of San Bernardino in 2012 in accordance with its desert groundwater ordinance. The plan gives the County oversight of the project operation to insure that the aquifer from which Cadiz has proposed to draw up the 50 thousand acre feet of water is properly monitored and that any mitigation requirements are met in a timely manner, including responses that require shutting down pumping if necessary.
The engineering firms of Aquilogic, Parker Groundwater, Balleau Groundwater, Inc., and Wildermuth Environmental were commissioned by two public water agencies to review and analyze the GMMMP in light of criticisms by some environmental organizations, in particular the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), which attended the presentation. Several labor, business and community groups that support the project also attended the workshop.
In his presentation of the findings, Mark Wildermuth of Wildermuth Environmental stated that the GMMMP was “appropriate” to certify the sustainability of the Cadiz aquifer over time and monitor surrounding springs that opponents have claimed might be effected by pumping.
During questioning by Board Members, the subject of Cadiz’s farming practices on the property was raised as to its effect on water levels in the basin. Cadiz President, Scott Slater responded that the property has been successfully farmed over the last two decades, with up to 7,000 acre feet of water from the aquifer utilized for irrigation annually. When asked about its effect on the water table, Slater stated that the aquifer “was currently at the highest levels ever recorded” even with the active farming by Cadiz.
As assurance to environmental organizations, Wildermuth suggested additional monitoring augmentation including more frequent monitoring in pre-operation, installation of wells to monitor for salinity migration and additional monitoring features at the natural springs which occur in the mountains surrounding the project about 12 miles away.
Wildermuth confirmed previous studies showing no hydraulic connection between area springs and the groundwater table surrounding the Cadiz Water Project.
The Cadiz Water Project was approved by the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors and the Santa Margarita Water District which oversaw the review of a multi-year California Environmental Quality Act Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The subsequent court challenges to that EIR by the NPCA and others were rejected by a Superior Court judge and then sustained by the California Court of Appeal.
The study was commissioned by Three Valleys Municipal Water District and the Jurupa Community Services District. It is available on the Three Valley’s website at www.threevalleys.com.