OC Coastkeeper/Pamela Crouch
Environmental groups say conserving water is cheaper and smarter than pumping it from aquifers below the Mojave Desert.
The Cadiz groundwater pumping project just won't quit. Neither will its opponents, apparently. Environmental groups are seeking to block a water-pumping plan from the arid Mojave desert in court.
A private company wants to drill wells into massive aquifers underneath the desert 100 miles east of Barstow and pull billions of gallons of water a year out of the ground. The project’s backers say precipitation will recharge the underground storage. But independent scientists have countered that the project’s more like mining than pumping.
After environmental review, the Santa Margarita Water District approved the Cadiz plan at the end of July. Now the Center for Biological Diversity, the National Parks Conservation Association, and others are suing to block it.
The groups argue that the project’s description is misleading, that the Santa Margarita Water District neglected its responsibilities under the state’s environmental quality act, that San Bernardino County, not the district, should have scrutinized the project, and that the project’s backers should have consulted with state agencies and the Metropolitan Water District. That water agency would have to move the pumped water, but has not yet committed to the task.