U.S. Water News Online
LOS ANGELES -- A contentious plan to store surplus Colorado
River water beneath the Mojave Desert and pump it for use by Southern
California has been sunk by the Metropolitan Water District.
The powerful board voted by a slim margin to halt the $150 million
project by Santa Monica-based agricultural company Cadiz Inc. The
project had been five years in the making.
In a weighted vote, the measure not to continue passed with 50.25
percent, or the bare minimum needed for approval.
``The Cadiz project at this point doesn't represent reliability,''
MWD board member Timothy Brick told his colleagues before the vote.
``It represents just the opposite -- risk.''
An earlier motion to continue with the project failed.
``We're disappointed, obviously, the project didn't go forward
today,'' said Wendy Mitchell, director of external affairs for Cadiz.
``We don't feel the public's interest has been served.''
Board member Wesley Bannister said consumers will need water the
project could have provided.
``We may not need it now. We may not need it next year, but I
guarantee you we will need it,'' Bannister said during the
discussion. ``To shut the door on it today is not the right way to
The U.S. Department of the Interior approved the proposal last
month, stating environmental damage could be prevented with the
extensive monitoring system.
Opponents of the project, led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.,
had mounted strong opposition, complaining it will damage the fragile
``This is the right decision,'' Feinstein said in a prepared
statement. ``The Cadiz project may have harmed the desert and was not
in the best interest of the MWD or the state of California.''
Environmentalists also hailed the move by the MWD, which serves 17
``It represents a really sound public policy decision,'' said
Simeon Herskovits, senior staff attorney with the Western
Environmental Law Center, which represents various groups opposed to
The project had been cited as a key part of California's plan to
cut its overuse of Colorado River water by 2015. For that plan to go
forward, California must begin transferring water now used by farmers
in the Imperial Valley to urban users in San Diego by Dec. 31.
Cadiz touted the plan as a way to offset the threatened reduction.
It called for piping river water in wet years to the desert aquifer
near Joshua Tree and storing it there. The water would then be pumped
out to Southern California when needed.
The MWD would also have had the right to buy from Cadiz naturally
occurring groundwater from the aquifer. Monitoring systems would have
been installed to keep the water level from dropping too low to
support the environment.
MWD and Cadiz would have jointly owned the project and split the
$150 million price tag. Cadiz stood to earn $500 million to $1
billion from the plan over 50 years.
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