Company wants to tap Mojave's public lands for Southland water

Cadiz Inc. could realize $1 billion to $2 billion in revenue over the plan's 50-year life. Opponents say public resources are being used for private profit.

Scott Slater, president and general counsel of Cadiz Inc., watches as water pours into a spreading basin. The basin holds water from a pilot well used for testing. Cadiz Inc. hopes to build a pipeline to export groundwater from the Mojave Desert. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times / April 18, 2012)

By Bettina Boxall, Los Angeles Times

CADIZ, Calif. – Three decades ago a group of businessmen pored over NASA satellite imagery as part of a worldwide hunt for large groundwater reserves they could tap to grow desert crops. They found the signs they were looking for here in the sun-blasted mountain ranges and creosote-freckled valleys of the Mojave Desert, 200 miles east of Los Angeles.

The group, which founded Cadiz Inc., bought old railroad land, drilled wells and planted neat grids of citrus trees and grapevines, irrigating them with water that bubbled out of the desert depths at the rate of 2,000 gallons a minute.

But by the mid-1990s, Cadiz had a new business plan: Sell water, not lemons.

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