New science shows Cadiz Inc project threatens major Mojave spring

April 14th, 2018
Contact: Frazier Haney, Director of Land Conservation, Mojave Desert Land Trust

Phone: 760-464-5430   

New science shows Cadiz Inc project threatens major Mojave spring

Joshua Tree – Peer-reviewed findings published in The Journal of Environmental Forensics show that the largest spring in the southeastern Mojave Desert would be threatened by the Cadiz Inc proposal to pump desert groundwater.

The first comprehensive chemical analysis of spring sources in the Southeastern Mojave Desert highlights factual flaws and omissions in the environmental science behind the Cadiz Inc project.

Cadiz Inc wants to extract 16.3 billion gallons of water every year from the Fenner Basin for export to suburban Orange County. It contends the pumping will not affect area springs, saying they are not fed by groundwater. But isotope data from water samples show that Bonanza Spring – the only wetland of its kind within 1,000 square miles – is fed by regional groundwater. The data show that the spring’s water source is the same as the aquifer that Cadiz Inc plans to pump.

“Water within Bonanza Spring is from a basin-fill water source, deriving its water from recharge north of the Clipper Mountains, and could be impacted if groundwater levels decrease at, or near, the spring,” states the study, titled ‘Understanding the source of water for selected springs within Mojave Trails National Monument, California’.

The multiple-methodology study was conducted for the Mojave Desert Land Trust by Partner Engineering and Science Inc, a national engineering and environmental consulting firm.

View Study

Many springs in the Mojave Desert are local springs that are primarily fed from local precipitation, and less likely to be affected by changes in groundwater. In contrast, regional springs fed primarily by groundwater have different characteristics that can be discerned by looking at temperature, geochemical makeup, and other physical characteristics.

“This peer-reviewed report draws a line under the various arguments about the environmental impact of this project. It clearly shows that Bonanza Spring is fed by the same groundwater that the Cadiz Inc project proposes to extract from the area. This confirms a threat to one of the most intact ecosystems in the US.” – Frazier Haney, Director of Land Conservation, MDLT.

In the desert, the depletion of any water source can be fatal for plant and wildlife. Bonanza Spring is a green, half-mile stretch lined with cottonwoods, reeds and mesquite. It is an important stopover for bighorn sheep, migrating birds, and insects. Biodiversity was one of the main factors contributing to the designation of the Mojave Trails National Monument in 2016. Cadiz Inc’s 34,000-acre property is at the heart of monument.

Geologists recently hired by Cadiz Inc concluded that Bonanza Spring was not hydraulically connected to the aquifer, based on an assumption that fractured rock separated the aquifer from the spring. These findings are not supported by groundwater analysis. The new data confirms the spring’s hydraulic connection to the aquifer. Additionally, data from the 2012 Environmental Impact Report indicates that Cadiz Inc’s groundwater pumping would create a “cone of depression” in the aquifer extending far beyond the described fault line, reducing groundwater levels north of the Clipper Mountains where groundwater flows feed Bonanza spring.

Partner Engineering and Science Inc’s study is supported by data gathered by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which provides further evidence that Bonanza Spring is connected to the aquifer. This data was made available in 2000 as part of the Cadiz Inc project and made public in August 2017.

View Study

“Not only would the Cadiz Inc project cause irreparable damage to the environment and remove the only wetland of its kind within the southeastern Mojave, it would also be a blow to the local community in the Cadiz Valley. In our work with local landowners and businesses, we hear time and again how people are concerned about the environmental impact of the proposed Cadiz Inc project.” – Frazier Haney, Director of Land Conservation, MDLT.

“These springs are so critically important to desert biodiversity – including a wide range of wildlife that is resilient but extraordinarily fragile – that a drop in water levels of even a foot can imperil entire water dependent ecosystems.” – Sophie Parker, Senior Scientist, The Nature Conservancy In 2015, the Conservancy helped commission the first modern, comprehensive Mojave Desert spring survey, working with the Bureau of Land Management and the Transition Habitat Conservancy, to better understand the distribution, sources and wildlife importance of springs on public lands across California’s Mojave Desert.

The new peer-reviewed study in The Journal of Environmental Forensics completes that picture, demonstrating the connection between an important desert spring and the aquifer system in the southeastern Mojave.

Note to editors:

For a copy of the study contact: For supporting documents and background on the study go to:

More Information

The Mojave Desert Land Trust (MDLT) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with the mission to protect and care for lands with natural, scenic and cultural value within the Mojave Desert. For more information, visit