Scott Slater, a former water lawyer, is the CEO of Cadiz, Inc, a hedge-fund-backed company that's purchased the water rights for 45,000 acres of the Mojave on Route 66, 75 miles northeast of Palm Springs. He wants to pump 814 million gallons of ancient water out of the desert and send it to drought-stricken southern California, where he can soak the thirsty millions for $2.4 billion.
Slater decries the environmentalists, native American bands, ranchers, politicians and human rights activists who say that this is an environmental disaster, as well as profiteering, though he cheerily admits that "in a condition of scarcity, all water, all water that's reliable, becomes more valuable," and that's why he's decided to exercise his pumping rights now.
He believes that people who criticize his plan are probably communists: "This is the United States of America and we have private property here. This is not a communist country. We own land, and land use is an attribute of property ownership Food doesn't stay on the farm it was grown on. We share our food, we share our energy, we share our oil and gas. I can sell land to anybody. Why would I treat water any differently? The use of water is owned. It's not like someone is calling up God and saying 'make it rain'. It is sold as a right, just like you sell a house."
In the latest setback, the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) ruled that the company cannot lay a 43-mile pipeline alongside an existing railway line to transport water to the Colorado river aqueduct and on to the cities of the Californian coast. It means Cadiz will have to seek federal approval for the pipeline, which will trigger a long and expensive environmental impact review.
Slater, who was a water rights lawyer for 30 years before taking over as Cadiz's CEO in 2013, is not giving up on the railway pipeline without a fight. He accuses the BLM of misinterpreting 19th century railway law, and says: "If we can't get them to follow the law, we'll do what we need to do, pursue administrative and judicial remedies."
The $2.4 Billion Plan to Water California by Draining the Mojave [Rupert Neate/Wired]