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Cadiz Water Project Shines in Wet Years, too

As rains lash California and reservoirs that were nearly empty after five years of drought now have the state’s attention for a very different reason – worry about the overflowing Oroville Reservoir’s structural integrity – it’s a good time to remind ourselves about Phase 2 of the Cadiz Water Project.

We have written extensively about Phase 1, the water supply portion of the Cadiz Water Project, which upon completion will save 50,000 acre-feet of water a year by keeping it from evaporating in Mojave Desert dry lakes, and deliver it annually to Southern California. But Phase 2, the project’s groundwater storage component, is also important because it would enable storage of imported excess flows at Cadiz, in the hopes of improving the management of California’s pattern of wet and dry years.

The Project would have a storage capacity of up to 1 million acre-feet, giving Southern California water providers the opportunity to move surplus “wet year” water from either the Colorado River Aqueduct or the State Water Project and store it at Cadiz until the inevitable subsequent dry years. The Metropolitan Water District recently announced that it is moving no water through the Colorado River Aqueduct because it’s taking all the water it needs from Northern California. If Phase 2 were operational today, MWD could be keeping the Colorado River Aqueduct in use, using it to move water to Cadiz for storage.

The prolific Cadiz aquifer, which already contains more than 20 million acre feet of water, has excess capacity to hold this stored water in its unsaturated sands and gravels below the surface. Surplus water could be imported to Cadiz via two separate pipelines that would interconnect Cadiz with the State’s primary water infrastructure, including Phase 1’s pipeline from the CRA to Cadiz as well as an existing natural gas pipeline that runs between Cadiz and Barstow. This pipeline would be converted to water conveyance, and once Phase 2 is implemented, the Cadiz Water Project would be the only water facility in California to interconnect Southern California’s primary sources of water, thereby improving the coordinated management of each in wet and dry years.

“The Cadiz aquifer system not only offers a reliable water supply opportunity, but given its 1 million acre-foot carry-over storage capacity, it provides an exceptional water management tool for local water agencies, and for water management in the  Southern Colorado River Basin states,” said Cadiz Vice President Courtney Degener. “This year provides a good example of the tremendous precipitation swings that impact California’s water resources, and the need for a project like ours that can not only provide year-to-year supply reliability but also storage in wet years like this one.”

A programmatic environmental review of Phase 2 was completed in 2012 in accordance with CEQA.  A project level CEQA review of the Cadiz Water Project’s storage phase is expected to begin once construction of Phase 1 gets underway, which Project proponents have on the books for 2017.

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