Orange County water district delays decision on Cadiz pumping project after 7-hour meeting

OC Coastkeeper/Pamela Crouch

Environmental groups say conserving water is cheaper and smarter than pumping it from aquifers below the Mojave Desert.

A company that wants to pump water from the Mojave Desert to southern Orange County must wait another week to learn whether a local water district will approve its plan. The Santa Margarita Water District is considering the Cadiz company’s plan to take water from underground aquifers about a hundred miles away.

Cadiz says it's spending more than 200 million dollars to develop and sell water to six areas around the state. One of those areas is the Santa Margarita Water District, which serves Mission Viejo, Rancho Santa Margarita, Coto de Caza, Las Flores, Ladera Ranch, and Talega. The water district board must first approve an environmental impact report to send the project forward.

Hundreds of people weighed in during a 7-hour public meeting Wednesday. Orange County Coastkeeper’s Pamela Crouch opposes the plan. She says saving water is cheaper than pumping more of it. "We just don’t think it is the most cost effective nor sustainable option for our water supply. We really believe that step one is changing the behaviors of our local communities here," Crouch said.

Conservationists who live in Joshua Tree and other high desert communities say taking water from underground will harm plants and animals already threatened by human development and climate change.

The project’s supporters say the area needs the Cadiz project because its supply of northern California water faces an uncertain future. A number of business groups support the plan, including several smaller chambers of commerce. The Santa Margarita Water District will consider the Cadiz plan again next week in Mission Viejo.

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