How One Man Plans to Make Billions Selling Water From Mojave Desert to Drought-Stricken California
Scott Slater, CEO of Cadiz Inc., has a controversial plan. He wants to pump 814 billion gallons of water from the Mojave Desert to Los Angeles, San Diego and other drought-stricken communities in Southern California—making more than $2 billion in the process.
Slater's company owns the water rights to 45,000 acres of land in the Mojave Desert, and he's already secured contracts to sell the water for $960 per acre-foot (the amount of water it takes to cover an acre of land in a foot of water), according to The Guardian. At that price, the company stands to make $2.4 billion over the 50-year period of its water extraction deal with San Bernardino County.
But in the last 10 years, the company has suffered $185 million in losses.
"To develop the project, the company burns through $10 million to $20 million annually," The New York Times explained, "paying for a never-ending battle in courthouses and conference rooms across California to win make-or-break government permits and to cover the salaries of its 10 full-time employees." The company borrows extensively and regularly issues new shares to cover its costs.
The project has faced fierce opposition from environmental groups, local ranchers, Native American tribes, politicians—notably, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)—and most recently, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
In a letter to Cadiz in October 2015, the BLM informed Cadiz that it "cannot use an existing railroad right-of-way for a new water pipeline that would carry supplies from the project's proposed well field to the Colorado River Aqueduct," The LA Times reported.
The project now requires a lengthy and expensive federal environmental review. To further complicate the matter, Feinstein has once again added a rider to the federal budget prohibiting the BLM from spending any money on the project.
"I remain concerned the Cadiz project could damage the Mojave Desert beyond repair and believe the BLM decision to deny the right-of-way is the right one," Feinstein told The LA Times in October 2015. "I'll continue to work through the appropriations committee to block any additional attempts to draw down this aquifer. We need to use water more responsibly, not less, and the Cadiz project is a bad idea."
All of these developments leave many wondering if the project will ever come to fruition. Slater, who was a water rights lawyer for 30 years before taking over as CEO in 2013, contends that the BLM is misinterpreting 19th century railway law. He told The Guardian that not only is the plan a "pretty simple" one, but the 50,000 acre-feet of water a year the company would extract would also “otherwise evaporate, which is far more of a waste than people drinking it.”
Still, many have what Slater described as a "visceral, negative reaction" to a private company making billions off of water. Even public-private partnerships on water ventures face strong opposition. Poseidon Water, a private company, partnered with the San Diego County Water Authority to build the largest desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere. But it took 15 years of lawsuits and regulatory hurdles to do so. The plant finally opened last month in Carlsbad, California, and the San Diego County Water Authority estimates it will produce enough water to meet 7 to 10 percent of the San Diego region’s water needs.
That may sound like a drop in the bucket for the drought-stricken state, but there are already about 15 other desalination plants being proposed in California. Despite this, critics contend that desalination and the Cadiz water project are not good solutions to addressing the state's drought.
Watch Slater explain the Cadiz Water Project in an interview on KCAA 1050AM, a California radio station:
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
Britain's Prince William interviewed famed broadcaster David Attenborough on Tuesday at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Switzerland.
During the sit-down, the 92-year-old naturalist advised the world leaders and business elite gathered in Davos this week that we must respect and protect the natural world, adding that the future of its survival—as well as humanity's survival—is in our hands.
What's more, the accounting firm predicts that another 21 million electric cars will be on the road globally over the next decade due to growing market demand for clean transportation, government subsidies, as well as bans on fossil fuel cars.
By Matthew Savoca
Plastic pollution in the world's oceans has become a global environmental crisis. Many people have seen images that seem to capture it, such as beaches carpeted with plastic trash or a seahorse gripping a cotton swab with its tail.
Greenland is melting about four times faster than it was in 2003, a new study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found, a discovery with frightening implications for the pace and extent of future sea level rise.
"We're going to see faster and faster sea level rise for the foreseeable future," study lead author and Ohio State University geodynamics professor Dr. Michael Bevis said in a press release. "Once you hit that tipping point, the only question is: How severe does it get?"
Finally, some good news about the otherwise terrible partial government shutdown. A federal judge ruled that the Trump administration cannot issue permits to conduct seismic testing during the government impasse.
The Justice Department sought to delay—or stay—a motion filed by a range of coastal cities, businesses and conservation organizations that are suing the Trump administration over offshore oil drilling, Reuters reported. The department argued that it did not have the resources it needed to work on the case due to the shutdown.
Most people have heard of the Amazon, South America's famed rainforest and hub of biological diversity. Less well known, though no less critical, is the Pantanal, the world's largest tropical wetland.
Like the Amazon, the Pantanal is ecologically important and imperiled. Located primarily in Brazil, it also stretches into neighboring Bolivia and Paraguay. Covering an area larger than England at more than 70,000 square miles, the massive wetland provides irreplaceable ecosystem services that include the regulation of floodwaters, nutrient renewal, river flow for navigability, groundwater recharge and carbon sequestration. The wetland also supports the economies of the four South American states it covers.
By Andrea Germanos
Organizers said 35,000 people marched through the streets of the German capital on Saturday to say they're "fed up" with industrial agriculture and call for a transformation to a system that instead supports the welfare of the environment, animals and rural farmers.
By Patrick Rogers
If you have ever considered making the switch to an environmentally friendly electric vehicle, don't drag your feet. Though EV prices are falling, and states are unveiling more and more public charging stations and plug-in-ready parking spots, the federal government is doing everything it can to slam the brakes on our progress away from gas-burning internal combustion engines. President Trump, likely pressured by his allies in the fossil fuel industry, has threatened to end the federal tax credits that have already helped put hundreds of thousands of EVs on the road—a move bound to harm not only our environment but our economy, too. After all, the manufacturing and sale of EVs, hybrids, and plug-in hybrids supported 197,000 jobs in 2017, according to the most recent U.S. Energy and Employment Report.