That's right folks, if you are special enough to have access to ample capital, financing and real estate in the Mojave you can lay claim to thousands of acre-feet of water (1 acre foot = 325,851 gallons) deposited underneath the Mojave Desert, and earn $50 million dollars per year for as long as the water lasts, according to a Business Week article. Unfortunately, this treasure hunt can impact the wildlife and people of the Southwest long after the treasure is spent. Cadiz Inc, which has been growing lemons and raisins on some of its Mojave land as it conducted studies to ascertain the volume of subterranean water it could sell, is planning to pump that water as soon as it can manage the paper work. The Cadiz funded study, conducted by CH2M Hill, suggests there is enough water for up to 400,000 people in the aquifer. Although Feinstein has voiced opposition to the pumping, the political forces in California are likely to swamp the Senator's clout.
So what's the big deal? The water is underground, what harm could it do if we put a straw in it and drink it all up (actually most of the water is likely to feed industry, energy and agriculture)? Past studies have shown that tapping underground aquifers leads to shifts in the subterranean water balance that can ultimately leave ground-water fed ponds dry, endangering desert pupfish populations. Worse yet, A US Geological Survey study showed that aquifer pumping was the most likely culprit for land subsidence. The 2003 study found large earth surface depressions near agriculture development in the Mojave Desert, with some areas sinking as much as 4 inches. The danger of land subsidence is that sinking land can close off underground aquifers, reducing the storage capacity underground and the ability of these aquifers to "re-charge". If our water problems today are bad enough, what happens when mother nature's water tank shrinks?
View Cadiz land in a larger map