News Feature | December 7, 2017

Trump Administration Sued Over Massive Desert Water Project

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

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Environmental advocacy groups filed a lawsuit last month to halt a massive water project in the Mojave Desert.

The project had been stalled by the Obama administration, but the Trump administration had cleared the way for it to proceed.

The lawsuit from the Center for Biological Diversity, Earthjustice, and the Center for Food Safety targets the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for giving Cadiz permission to build a 43-mile pipeline designed to transfer water from wells in the Mojave Desert so it can be sold to water districts, KPCC reported. Cadiz wants to sell the water to Southern California, according to The Sacramento Bee.

The Obama administration had put up roadblocks to the project, but under the Trump administration, the project was placed on a priority infrastructure list, KPCC reported.

The lawsuit argues that the project would take a devastating toll on the environment, drying up streams and lakes and leaving dust pollution in its wake. The lawsuit also cautioned that the water that will be pumped during the project contains dangerous chemicals such as mercury.

Per a San Bernardino Sun report, the lawsuit asks that the court do the following:

  • Declare the Cadiz project pipeline is beyond the scope of the 1875 railroad right-of-way easement.
  • Enjoin the BLM from authorizing or otherwise allowing construction and operation of the Cadiz project pipeline in the absence of a valid right-of-way easement across the federal lands.

Ileene Anderson, a senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity, called the project “unsustainable” in a statement.

“The Cadiz project will suck the desert dry while developers count their money,” she said. “It’s an unsustainable water-privatization scheme. Pumping ancient groundwater from the Mojave Desert to water suburban lawns in Orange County will devastate desert wildlife and the entire ecosystem relying on that water for survival.”

Cadiz officials, however, say the project would not have a profound impact on the environment.

“Cadiz officials said that the water withdrawn by the project equals the amount that would have been lost anyway through evaporation as some of the groundwater seeps to the surface,” The San Bernardino Sun reported.

To read about similar water projects visit Water Online’s Water Scarcity Solutions Center.

Image credit: "Donald Trump," Gage Skidmore © 2011, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/