Independent, scientific evaluation of Cadiz Water Project validates groundwater management plan

By on March 12, 2019

An independent review and scientific evaluation of the proposed Cadiz Water Project in the Mojave Desert, commissioned by Three Valleys Municipal Water District (TVMWD) and Jurupa Community Services District (JCSD), has concluded that monitoring and mitigation measures for the project are “appropriate and protective” of the surrounding ecosystem. The project will manage and conserve Mojave Desert groundwater for Southern California water agencies and customers before it is lost to evaporation. TVMWD and JCSD are two of the agencies which hold option agreements to participate in the project.

Experts from four separate engineering firms — not previously employed by Cadiz — conducted the independent review and included Anthony Brown of aquilogic, Timothy Parker of Parker Groundwater, Dave Romero of Balleau Groundwater, Inc., and Mark Wildermuth of Wildermuth Environmental, Inc. This most recent review by the four firms follows a lengthy environmental review of the Cadiz Water Project as well as an evaluation by the county of San Bernardino, which adopted a Groundwater Management, Monitoring, and Mitigation Plan (GMMMP) to ensure environmental safety. The Plan and the project’s environmental impact report (EIR) were validated in California Superior and Appellate Courts.

“In light of concerns raised by Project opponents about potential harm to desert springs and the local watershed, the districts retained a team of groundwater management experts to provide impartial input and resolve any lingering questions,” said Matt Litchfield, TVMWD general manager. “We are encouraged that this review confirms the strength of the groundwater management plan, environmental review, and the mitigations incorporated into the Project’s EIR.”

The group confirmed previous studies showing no hydraulic connection between area springs and the groundwater table surrounding the Cadiz Water Project area. Additionally, the scientists found that the GMMMP provides sufficient management and monitoring to identify any undesirable results that could occur in response to proposed groundwater pumping, as well as effective corrective measures. The study is available online at www.threevalleys.com.

The independent panel did recommend some complementary additions that could be made to the GMMMP, to “allay any concerns that opponents to the Cadiz Project may still have, improve public confidence in the Cadiz Project, and are provided in an abundance of caution.” Many of the recommendations extend work Cadiz has already done in geophysical mapping and groundwater monitoring. They include:

  • Developing a more detailed monitoring plan at least one year prior to the start of the Project, including a detailed Quality Assurance Project Plan, a formal data management system and an online repository for all technical reports
  • Conducting geophysical mapping in the area immediately above and some distance below Bonanza Spring and in the Fenner Gap
  • Installing additional monitoring wells immediately below Bonanza Spring and at the edge of the alluvial aquifer one mile southeast of the spring
  • Installing a weather station or rain gauge in the bedrock watershed
  • Conducting more frequent monitoring at Bonanza, Whiskey and Vontrigger springs using transducers and dataloggers and mapping the exact geographic location and elevation of each spring on an annual basis
  • Increasing groundwater monitoring frequency
  • Installing transducers in any third-party well prior to the start of the Project
  • Spatially and at-depth mapping of the saline-fresh water interface between the Bristol and Cadiz dry lakes and the Fenner Valley and other upstream watersheds
  • Increasing InSAR data analysis and reducing the number of extensometers installed from three to one prior to the Project’s beginning
  • Updating numerical groundwater modeling and recalibrating the model on a regular basis
  • Evaluating additional corrective measures

The Los-Angeles area located Three Valleys Municipal Water District issued the Independent review and scientific evaluation last week. It was prepared over several months and included a site assessment and a review of all available science and project materials. The panel will present its findings at a Three Valleys Board workshop on Wednesday, March 13 at 8 a.m. at the TVMWD offices, 1021 E. Miramar Ave., in Claremont.

“We are confident that sufficient supplemental measures can be taken to minimize any remaining concerns about this Project, which would help meet our region’s water needs in a reliable, cost-effective and sustainable way,” Litchfield said. “In light of the company’s stated commitment to environmental sustainability, we suggest that the Project include the recommended additional safeguards that will further ensure its environmental sustainability.”