Desperate For Water, Desert City Hopes To Build Pipeline To Calif. Aqueduct

"After decades of unrestricted pumping in the rain-starved northwestern corner of the Mojave Desert, the Indian Wells Valley Groundwater Basin Authority has the distinction of managing one of the most critically overdrawn aquifers in California.

Now, the region is in an uproar over a proposal that the authority sees as a way out of its groundwater crisis, one that critics say would give priority to urban consumers in the city of Ridgecrest and the adjacent Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake over farmers and mining operations.

It's a $200 million, 50-mile-long pipeline system that would move water from the California Aqueduct in California City—over arid desert mountains—to a storage tank in the urban center of Ridgecrest.

The federal government would pay $150 million of the cost, authority officials say, with the remaining $50 million passed on to ratepayers, including pistachio growers and mining operations recently saddled with a special "groundwater replenishment fee" of up to $6 million a year.

That does not include the potentially formidable costs of acquiring water to be conveyed through the pipeline, planning, annual operation and maintenance, officials said."

Louis Sahagún reports for the Los Angeles Times November 13, 2023.

Source: LA Times, 11/14/2023