Cadiz, the Desert Water Pimps.


Top two photos from Can you spot the shameless hulking Probolsky? Bottom photo – John Earl and Debbie Cook observe pre-meeting protest of desert activists.

I had no idea that 400 people showed up to Water Board meetings!  Or how dramatic and entertaining they can be, or that they can go till 1 AM!  What have I been missing?

Spy’s eye view of the Cadiz War Room.  Photo

It’s probably not always like that though, not always like last night’s jam-packed meeting of the Santa Margarita Water District at the Murray Center in Mission Viejo, where the Board was to consider okaying the EIR for a jaw-droppingly audacious heist known hysterically as the Cadiz Valley Water Conservation Project – which aims to “conserve” all the groundwater underneath the Mojave Desert from *EVAPORATION* by shipping it 200 miles to the South OC for new development!

Think about that.

Not only was it unsurprising that hundreds of people – many of them having driven two hours from the Joshua Tree area – showed up to fulminate against this theft.  Also unsurprising, given all the money involved, was that there were lots of supporters of the scheme there – “scientists” jabbering about how NOT paid-off they were, local businessmen eager for the spigot to start flowing, “consultants” ranging in size from the malignant, ubiquitous Reed Royalty to the shameless hulking Probolsky, and sullen high school kids holding slick pro-Cadiz signs who were probably promised pizza and then pooped out around 8pm.

What WAS surprising to me and my colleague John Earl was to discover, in our wanderings about the lavish Murray Center, that Cadiz had their own secret war room, marked “Technical Room – Stay Out!”  The insides of all windows and doors were covered with paper, but you could just barely peek in and see Cadiz principals and a couple dozen flacks studiously watching a live feed of everything that happened in the meeting, including the very typing of the Board’s stenographer, while critiquing, highlighting, and taking notes.

When we reported this unusual, undemocratic phenomenon to young ace reporter Nick Gerda of the Voice of OC, and told him he should go check it out, he did … and came back somewhat shaken.  Cadiz had threatened to call the police on Nick Gerda when he attempted to enter the room to do his job!  [Update – see video of the “War Room” at the bottom of this post!*]

“Pimps?”  Really?  In what way? Justify your vulgarity please.

Sure thing.

There are men who, whether driven to desperation by their economic straits or lacking even that slim excuse, will look at their wife, or girlfriend, or sister, or daughter, or mother … and then think of all the rich, horny men out there in the world … and then say to themselves, “This woman is a resource of mine, which I am not yet fully exploiting!”

And there are companies like that too.  And one of them is CADIZ INC. – at least if you consider the water deep beneath your feet, for miles and miles around, to which you have no legal or natural right, to be similar to a woman you have power over.

Standing in between them and their brazen scheme to drain the desert into the gaping maw of south-county developers, was nothing but a few notoriously corrupt San Bernardino pols.  So Cadiz bought a few Supervisors, a few mayors and councils, and voila – objections turned into enthusiastic support!

But purchased Inland Empire political support is a house of cards.  Already one bought-off Supe has been slaughtered in the polls for just this transgression, as press-deprived 909’ers begin to wake up to the travesty. Debbie Cook, in her article we reprinted yesterday, mentioned the two looming lawsuits, and popular rage against this design on the area’s aquifer is spreading across the Mojave like … like whatever kind of fires they might have out there.

A LOT of good speakers came down from the desert.  They’ve got their scientists and legal experts just like we do, who made fools (or whores) of Cadiz’ pet scientists.  Oh, but first – what WERE the main points Cadiz’ pet scientists made?

  1. Most of them began by stressing that all of this science was way too complicated for a common Cadiz opponent to understand – an important starting point, as their contentions really defy common sense.
  2. Also, none of the Mojave’s amazing variety of wildlife and vegetation are at all dependent on the vast aquifer in question, as it is so ridiculously deep – hundreds of feet down at some points!  (Which seems hard to reconcile with their fervent concern for this water being lost to EVAPORATION – such a danger in fact that we must QUICKLY get it into South-county swimming pools, artificial lakes, and verdant lawns, so it won’t EVAPORATE so much!)
  3. Also, the chromium and arsenic levels in this water are to laugh at – watch the scientist drink a glass! – for after all, chromium is one of the most common elements on the face of the earth, even more common than lead or cyanide!
  4. Also, this really IS an amazing, innovative project, and a model to be emulated in the future!  (Kind of like toll lanes on the 405.)

Scientists not on the payroll of Cadiz or the Board made quick work of demolishing these dubious claims.   But one of my favorite desert speakers was a plain-spoken long-hair named Buck, who calmly countered:  “There’s nothing new or innovative about this, man.  It’s an old, old story.  You’re just taking other people’s stuff.”

 “Well, sad about the desert, but still … The OC = WINNING!!!  (right? right?)”

Well, actually, no.

For two reasons, the OC is NOT winning, and I’m not even talking about the chromium and the lawsuits.

“I drink your milkshake. SLLLLRRRP – I drink it up!”

One:  We don’t need that water.  We don’t need it for drinking.  People in the South County don’t even drink tap water anyway, they drink bottled water.  The people who want to “drink up the desert’s milkshake”  like Daniel Plainview did to Bandy’s Tract are DEVELOPERS, who want to create and populate two, three, MANY more Ranchos Santa Margaritae, complete with the aforementioned shimmering artificial lakes, swimming pools, and verdant lawns.  I am 96% positive that is not what most South County residents want.

And Two:  This unnecessary and gargantuan project is going to make your water rates go through the roof, 949-ers.

Some of the best opposition speakers were south County conservatives who realize all this – friends of OJ’s own Larry Gilbert (who also spoke in opposition.)  Former Mission Viejo Mayor Gail Reavis was a ROCK STAR, as was Larry’s irascible fly-fishing buddy Joe Holtzman.  THEY know it’s the south County ratepayers that are going to be footing the bill for this folly and its attendant litigations.  As I always say, I love these types of local issues that unite real conservatives, progressives and environmentalists against greedy insiders of both Parties.

The Rancho Margarita Water Board:  Between a Rock and a Cactus.

So, if we’re going with the metaphor of a pimp, why are we using a picture of Chinatown‘s Noah Cross?  He wasn’t a pimp.  But the parallels with that movie are irresistible – the unimaginably massive theft of one region’s water supply and its transport to another greedy region, and, as Debbie began to document yesterday, the endlessly incestuous relationships between Cadiz, politicians and water boards.  And around midnight she stood before them like an accusing angel, hurling charge after undeniable charge of illegalities, corruption and cronyism, their worst nightmare and Huntington Beach’s pride.

But this Board, the Santa Margarita Water Board, IS in a really tough pickle now.  They know that there are many compelling reasons to back out of this project, BUT they have been spending so much money pursuing it – tens of thousands of dollars – for which they will ONLY BE COMPENSATED by Cadiz if they approve it.  So it’s like Cadiz has already made them a little bit pregnant.

So you ask, wrap it up, what DID the Board decide at 1AM this morning?  Well, after a five minute recess, they decided to go home, think about it for five sleepless nights, and make the decision next Tuesday night, July 31.  Maybe they hope we’ll all forget about this by then.  Fat chance.


*Update:  The Celebrated “War Room” Video!

Update August 1

Figures.  Bastards.  The Santa Margarita Water Board voted unanimously last night to approve the EIR for this monstrosity.  At least now they’ll get reimbursed for their expenses.  Now, as so often, it’s up to the lawsuits to stop it.  The lawyers always love that.  Too bad, south County ratepayers, this is on your tab.

We here at the Orange Juice, however, are always trying to think of constructive things you can do about shit like this – and we know of at least one GREAT candidate who is running for this Board in November – stay tuned!

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at, or 714-235-VERN.