CALIFORNIA – An aquifer beneath the Mojave Desert could reliably provide water to 100,000 households in drought-stricken California for the next half-century, The Washington Post reports.
Publicly-traded water company Cadiz owns about 35,000 acres of property inside the Mojave Trails National Monument, designated in February 2016 by former President Barack Obama. Cadiz plans to tap into the Fenner Basin aquifer beneath the desert and pipe water to the Colorado River Aqueduct, less than 50 miles away, if the company can get the proper permits and approvals from California.
California is one of the most environmentally strict states in the U.S. and any significant change to the landscape is fought by environmental groups and Democrat lawmakers. Environmental assessments and studies must prove that harm to the environment will be minimal before any large infrastructure project is completed.
“This is an extremely difficult space in which to do business in this state,” Cadiz chief executive Scott Slater told WaPo. Cadiz has pushed for the project’s approval for more than two decades.
“These legacies shadow everything we do, and so we have to make sure what we are doing is right,” Slater said, referring to the 1913 diversion of the Owens River to Las Angeles. The project killed Owens Lake and Owens Valley’s agriculture economy.
Cadiz has completed the environmental assessments required to get approval for the project, but California has hesitated to consent. Environmental groups dispute Cadiz’s assessments and say the water project would harm the desert environment and ecosystem. Environmental groups are increasingly worried that the Cadiz project will finally be approved with help from allies in the Trump administration.
“[Cadiz has] tried unsuccessfully for years to take this water and move it to market,” National Parks Conservation Association California desert director David Lamfrom told WaPo. “Now the threat has taken a new shape given how advantageously Cadiz has been treated by the Trump administration.”
President Donald Trump took an interest in California’s water politics last year after deadly wildfires scarred the state. Trump blamed California’s “bad environmental laws” for filling vast California forests with tons of dry fuel and for diverting available water to the coast to preserve habitat rather than using it to fight fires.
The Trump administration threatened punitive action against California if the state refused to reform its environmental laws and make more water available for businesses and households.