For a while, I went to school with a woman who had just left working for Cadiz. She is shockingly funny, and told me stories about how great it was to work for Cadiz. It was pretty fun, I hear, to zoom up to the desert on a Friday night and stay at Sun World and drink at rural bars and eat amazing fruit. That does indeed sound great. When we realized we were both in the water field, she told me about the Cadiz project; how they were going to sell their groundwater to LA. I winced at that and she reassured me. It was no problem, she said; the aquifer wasn’t connected to anything. At that moment, I knew the project was bullshit, because “not connected to anything” isn’t a possible thing. It was the early 2000’s and she told me that the Cadiz project was definitely going to happen, because Keith Brackpool was very good at Grey Davis’ preferred type of fellatio(her explanation, my classy paraphrase).
Now friends of this blog, if you study a map, you will see that neither the Mojave Desert nor Los Angeles are in the Central Valley. Since you are all long-time readers, you know that my small and limited attention goes only towards water issues in the Central Valley. So even though the Cadiz project has been self-evident bullshit since the very first I heard of it, and even though I have found its opponents to be brilliant and its supporters to be paid hacks, I don’t believe I’ve ever written about it here.
I’m still don’t have much to say about Cadiz, but I do want to answer a related question my friend asked me. When I said there’s no way that water in a desert aquifer is unconnected to the surface desert ecology, she asked, but what if it were? If it were unconnected, why not send that water to Los Angeles? For the sake of that question, I will set aside the potential harm of the pipeline itself and the cost and pretend that this project is both spherical and frictionless. I’ll also answer that question as someone who is partial to Los Angeles.
My answer is no, even were it costless, Cadiz shouldn’t be built. It shouldn’t be built because Los Angelenos can live within their existing supply. Decoupling was evident even in the early 2000’s; hell, it had been obvious since the ’80’s, when the Mono Lake Committee proved that L.A. could replace Mono Lake water with conserved water. I do understand that many more people will live in L.A., but I also know that we have not begun to approach a gppd so low that Angelenos (or, more broadly any Californians that have reliable water service) drop out of a first world quality of life. Further, the region has the money to pursue the next-most-expensive chunks of internal water. I reject the assertion that growth for southern California requires Cadiz’s water, and for that matter, I don’t want Californians tied to the traditional economic concept of growth.
I have come to a conclusion, here in 2018, as I look at the sleazy fucks who have resuscitated Cadiz. As #MeToo develops, I am realizing that it is all the same extraction mindset. Either people believe that the other has inherent worth and should be met in mutually beneficial agreement, or people believe that the other is not as important as themselves and is a target for extraction. Desert water; living rivers; people’s labor; environmental absorption capacity; Tribal land; sex, time, attention from a weaker party. To a taker, they’re all just stocks, insufficiently guarded. Witnessing extraction in one realm should alert the viewer that they are viewing someone with an extractive mindset; it is likely that person is dangerous in multiple realms. Which is a long way of saying what the last nearly twenty years have made clear: Cadiz is a terrible project supported by terrible people.