Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, October 6, 2015

Contact: Ileene Anderson, (323) 654-5943,

BLM Requires Full Environmental Review of Destructive Cadiz Water Project

Southern California Water Grab Would Rob Wildlife, Desert of Billions of Gallons Per Year  

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif.— The Bureau of Land Management has notified Cadiz, Inc. that it will require a full environmental review of the ill-conceived Cadiz groundwater pumping scheme, based on the project’s proposed use of a railroad right-of-way across public land. The project would pump billions of gallons of ancient water from an underground aquifer near the Mojave National Preserve and ship it to Southern California cities to feed urban sprawl. 

“The BLM is making the right call in requiring a full environmental analysis of this high-impact project,” said Ileene Anderson, a scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “This shortsighted water grab would rob some of California’s rarest species of the water they need to survive and increase urban sprawl in coastal Southern California — all while depleting precious public-trust water resources.”

Conservation groups have filed several lawsuits over the Cadiz water project in San Bernardino County, challenging the county for failing to provide environmental review and violating its own groundwater ordinance. The project would take more than 16 billion gallons of water per year from the Mojave Desert and pump it to southern Orange County. Those lawsuits are now pending before the Fourth District of the California Court of Appeals in Orange County.

“Throughout the environmental review and approval process, there was failure to follow the law and a disregard for accountability to San Bernardino residents and fragile desert resources,” said Aruna Prabhala, a staff attorney at the Center. “Our lawsuits are targeted at protecting the public’s water resources and ensuring that San Bernardino County’s groundwater-protection laws are fully enforced.”

The project would mine underground water near the town of Cadiz, in eastern San Bernardino County, to fuel Orange County growth, with numerous impacts on rare and imperiled plants and animals both in the Mojave Desert and coastal Southern California.

Despite the project being widely opposed by Orange County ratepayers, San Bernardino County residents, state and federal public agencies and a local mining company, San Bernardino County approved it — in direct violation of its own groundwater ordinance, originally created to thwart a similar project by Cadiz, Inc. more than 10 years ago. The project threatens to dry up life-sustaining desert springs in the Mojave National Preserve, hurting vegetation and key habitat for iconic desert wildlife species including desert tortoises, bighorn sheep, Mojave fringe-toed lizards and kit foxes.

“The ongoing drought is a reminder to all of us that we need to use our limited water resources wisely,” said Anderson. “Approving unsustainable groundwater mining to fuel further urban sprawl is not the direction we should be headed.”

The Cadiz company has faced a series of rejections of similar proposals from larger water districts in Southern California over the past decade. Former government hydrologists from the U.S. Geological Survey have disagreed with the company’s consultants on the recharge rate of the aquifer and identified the project as unsustainable over the long term.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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