Letter to the Editor
– Submitted by Daniel Pritchett
Just a century ago, Owens Lake was a spectacular inland sea, teeming with life. After DWP reduced Owens Valley to a colony and dried the lake, its bed became the largest source of health-threatening dust in the nation. To mitigate the dust, DWP has been forced to agree to endless cycles of flooding, bulldozing, and manipulation of the lake bed.
A proposal to fill the lake with seawater via a new aqueduct has recently been circulating in both electronic and print media.
There is a much better way to fill the lake and mitigate dust. The billions of dollars DWP will have to continue spending on dust mitigation could, instead, be invested in re-engineering LA’s water system for recycling, conservation, and storm water capture. This would eventually free the city from its dependence on Eastern Sierra water and allow the cost-free miracle of gravity to once again fill (by means of Owens River and Sierran creeks) Owens Lake and mitigate dust.
There is sufficient money and ingenuity in Los Angeles to do this. What is lacking is the political will to make the investment. But even that may not be in as short supply as it seems. The rhetoric coming from LA these days is all about “locally sourced water” and “reducing dependence on imported water.” Mayor Garcetti and DWP even have a “Sustainability Officer.”
Of course, talk is cheap. DWP claims Eastern Sierra water is not “imported” and so therefore not subject to its “reduce dependence on imported water” goal. No doubt DWP even claims its exploitation of Owens Valley is “sustainable.”
And even while LA’s green rhetoric is decidedly 21st century, its colonial rule of Owens Valley remains back in the 19th. Since World War II, all the world’s major colonial powers have lost their colonies. Los Angeles, on the other hand, continues to enlarge its Owens Valley colony and drill ever more wells. Talk about being on the “wrong side of history”!
The inescapable implication of LA’s commitment to “locally sourced water” is that the city must overcome its dependence on Eastern Sierra water and associated colonial rule. Our task must be to insist DWP and LA leaders acknowledge this and start investing accordingly. This won’t be easy, and many readers may dismiss the idea as unrealistic. However, I suggest insisting LA honor its own rhetoric is more realistic than the alternative: accepting the status quo and pretending current management agreements under colonial rule will avert the slow-motion disaster of desiccation and desertification we are already experiencing.