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‘Significant Risk’ at Oroville Underscores Need for Cadiz Water Project

The “very significant risk” damage to the Oroville Dam spillway underscores the need to diversify California’s water supply, including increased groundwater storage capacity, as Phase 2 of the Cadiz Water Project would provide.

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, consulting engineers hired by the California Department of Water Resources have reported that unless the damaged Oroville Dam spillway is fully repaired before the start of the 2017-2018 wet season in November, the state faces “a very significant risk” that the dam holding back the waters of the state’s largest reservoir could fail. Such a failure could result in deadly floods and disruption of the state’s water delivery system.

Before the recent rains, we worried about reservoirs running dry, not potentially failing because they’re overflowing. But the fact is that California’s natural water supply is subject to wild swings, making water supply planning a foreboding challenge.

To address such challenges, water planners and purveyors have discussed the need for more supply alternatives and more storage alternatives. The Cadiz Water Project provides both.

The first phase of the project, which is currently nearing completion of its regulatory approvals, will create a new water supply sufficient to meet the water needs of 400,000 Southern Californians every year for 50 years. Such a consistent, drought-proof supply will give water planners more options for meeting demand.

The project’s second phase will provide up to 1 million acre-feet of storage, giving water planners a place to can keep surplus wet year water for use in dry years. The storage project envisions being able to store water from Southern California’s two primary imported water sources: The Colorado River, via the water conveyance pipeline connecting Cadiz to the Colorado River Aqueduct, and the State Water Project, via a converted natural gas pipeline from Barstow to Cadiz.

Cadiz will initiate the regulatory review for Phase 2 after Phase 1’s approval is finalized.

Having 1 million acre-feet of additional storage would be a welcome option for water supply planners, since California has very few underutilized local groundwater storage options – and none at all off the Colorado River Aqueduct.

As water planners seek ways to hold more wet-year water in storage, let’s put 1 million acre feet of new groundwater storage capacity into perspective. It is like building a new Diamond Valley Lake reservoir for Southern California – only larger. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s largest surface reservoir, Diamond Valley Lake, holds 810,000 acre-feet.

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