Letter: ‘Locally sourced water’

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.

Daniel Pritchett

Bishop, CA


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13 Responses to Letter: ‘Locally sourced water’

  1. Mark June 18, 2015 at 6:54 am #

    “instead, be invested in re-engineering LA’s water system ”

    We can dream can’t we..

  2. Philip Anaya June 18, 2015 at 5:20 pm #

    Meanwhile in the San Fernando Valley and in the Owens Valley the heat is on and the infrastructure is straining to provide water for the millions at the terminus of the LA Aqueduct . Like Daniel we are all keeping an eye on the LADWP and the water for Ranchers and Mitigation Projects.
    The Northern District Daily Report for June 16 is showing Mono Lake at 6379.11 feet (read on June 10) There is zero out of the West Portal. Grant Lake is holding 13,174 AF, current elevation is 7091.9 from the HW (High Water) elevation of 7130. DWP has already taken their 4000 AF from the Mono Basin . All the runoff from Rush, Parker, Lee Vining and Walker Creeks is to benefit Mono Lake . We hope it is enough.
    Crowley is holding 104,800 AF. Pleasant Valley Res has 2,584AF . Bishop Creek is flowing 72cfs . I heard the Sabrina had gone up 2 feet last week . The Owens River is at a pitiful 104 cfs. Tinemaha has 5131 AF there is 0 in the Aqueduct below the Cartago spillgate and N Haiwee has 5758 AF and S Haiwee has 24847 with 70 AF being released in to the Aqueduct .
    It seems unlikely that LADWP will ever abandon the LA Aqueduct and the Owens Valley operations. We can advocate for responsible management and fair treatment for the Valley. DWP is doing what they said they would be doing and we need to help them by keeping tabs, continual communication and continuing “collaborative efforts” .
    I could not find “Sea Water for Owens Lake”. A link or a footnote would be helpful . Talk is not only cheap but it also very easy. Finding and implementing solutions is difficult and like everything these days very expensive .

  3. J. Harris June 19, 2015 at 10:22 am #

    At the risk of hurting anyones feelings with facts, I should point out that if LADWP ceases to need water from the Owens Valley, they will likely sell it off. When they sell it off, the best case scenario will be similar California’s central coast. Largely privately owned, and fenced off, with no trespassing signs everywhere. Also in the realm of possibility, we can go the way of the San Joaquin Valley, with all of the valley we love relegated to orchards, farmland, and dairies, courtesy of the water table under us. We find ourselves in a Devil’s Bargain, in that the export of our water keeps the lions share of our Valley open for public use, while also leaving us at the mercy of those who own the land, and the water under it. Getting rid of LADWP means alot of No Trespassing signs, at best.

    • Ken Warner June 19, 2015 at 4:23 pm #

      Yep! But a lot of people don’t see it as clearly as you do. They think that the valley will just sit there untouched.

    • Michael Prather June 20, 2015 at 5:28 am #

      An opportunity was missed twice a number of years ago that would have led to a conservation easement on LADWP lands in Inyo and Mono.This would have precluded development in the future while allowing continued land and water ownership. Sadly this idea was beat back by locals here and by political figures in Los Angeles. The chance was lost and may never be seen again.

    • Charles O. Jones June 20, 2015 at 7:00 am #

      I share your concerns, J. Harris.

      IMO, LADWP is clearly the lesser of two, (or more) evils.

    • BishopBeans June 20, 2015 at 2:04 pm #

      LA will never have a source of water as cheap as Owens Valley water. They will always divert the water and they will never sell the land–the water is too valuable. On the other hand, if there is no water, no one would buy the land. DWP is the worst thing and the best thing about the Owens Valley.

  4. Trouble June 20, 2015 at 8:45 pm #

    The County and it’s voters could erase those fears in one election!

    • Russ Monroe June 21, 2015 at 12:47 pm #

      So true Trouble…..
      Unfortunately: could, is a long way from will.
      Maybe if You ran?
      How about it Trouble? I suspect that you would pull more votes here than it took to put our incumbent in office.

  5. Pedro June 21, 2015 at 4:45 pm #

    American settlers had already “colonized” “Owens Valley” and diverted the water after driving the previous farmers from the land. Live by the sword, die by the sword.
    The lake would be dry and/or filled with sewage and pesticide laden agricultural runoff by now even if LA never existed. Take a look at what has happened to the Aral Sea.


    Owens Lake has not overflowed for thousands of years. Even if we argue the level was constant, that shows that water flow into the lake equaled evaporation. Even if all local water was let flow into the lake it would never be enough to fill it again until the next great flood. Another lesson that all our current level of intelligence and engineering can’t always heal what we have destroyed.

  6. Trouble June 21, 2015 at 5:42 pm #

    Yes Russ, if we make it threw one more drought year, I figure I can buy my votes while handing out bottled water on Main st.

    • Russ Monroe June 22, 2015 at 5:46 am #

      You don’t need to buy my vote Trouble! You earn it every time you pen a logical, thoughtful response and post it here. I wish to hell that I could find, even one, politician that would do the same.

  7. Trouble June 22, 2015 at 1:59 pm #

    Thanks Russy, I’m just more likely to get caught running from the law ,then for the law!


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