Before the groundwater
pumping season starts April first, Inyo County and DWP are negotiating
over an interim pumping plan to govern how much water is pumped out of
the Owens Valley until a permanent solution can worked out.
With an upcoming Standing Committee meeting with DWP officials on
Monday, the Inyo Supervisors had to sign off on the plan that county
staff and DWP worked out. After DWP originally proposed a one year
plan, it appears the county won out with their wished-for three year
Water Director Tom Brooks explained to the board that this three year
pumping agreement would maintain or increase the water table in all the
wellfields with the end result a new set of rules to govern groundwater
pumping and a new drought recovery policy.
While the current pumping rules use soil moisture and the plants on the
surface to determine when the pumps should be turned off, for the first
time this interim plan uses the actual depth of the water table to keep
groundwater levels as as they are on April First of this year.
The plan also limits pumping to 57,000 acre feet. The next two years
the pumping will be tied to the runoff, which could lead to as much as
87,000 acre feet of water pumped south if there is a wet year, but less
if the winter is dry.
Critics of this plan say there is no guarantee the water levels will
even stay the same over the next three years, and the plan definitely
does not provide for water table recovery – a problem that lingers.
Other items in the interim pumping plan are more water spreading in
Laws if there is a wet year and permission for DWP to explore using
water under the Owens Lake for dust mitigation.
Is it a good plan? The supervisors seemed to think so, they unanimously approved it so they can take it to LA on Monday.
The goal of the original water agreement is to restore water tables to
their levels in 1987. That was twenty years ago. The question now is
Inyo County going to accept a new baseline of 2007, or will real
recovery of the water table make it back to the negotiating table.