Letter to the Editor: ‘Talking water, talking nonsense’

– Submitted by Daniel Pritchett

The Inyo Supervisors’ “Talking Water” workshop must have been quite an extravaganza to judge by the Inyo Register’s coverage (4/30/15).  Unfortunately, portions of the proceedings were all too predictable: misleading statements by DWP and credulousness by county leaders.

Daniel Pritchett

Daniel Pritchett

DWP reportedly asserted that no water is being pumped for export.  DWP has made this assertion for years and it is not true. Pumped groundwater indisputably mixes with surface water in ditches and canals and ends up in the aqueduct for export. In fact, some wells pump directly into the aqueduct.

DWP also reportedly asserted only surface water is used on Owens Lake.  Again, this is ridiculous. Just as exported water is a mix of surface and groundwater, so water allowed to reach Owens Lake is a mixture of surface and groundwater.

Jim Yannota was quoted, “There is not enough water available to meet all of the competing water demands throughout Owens Valley.”  DWP’s own data contradict him.

DWP’s 2015 Owens Valley Annual Report predicts total Owens Valley water input to be 276,000 acre-feet (af), an increase of 11,000 af over 2014. The report calls for using only 124,400 af in Owens Valley, and exporting 42,400 af down the Aqueduct.  The report gives no data regarding current storage (i.e. Grant Lake, Long Valley, Pleasant Valley, and Tinemaha Reservoirs), though these reservoirs are not empty.

With total input increasing by 11,000 af, DWP’s plan to reduce irrigation water by over 60%, (thereby devastating Owens Valley agriculture) is hard to justify.  If only 124,400 af (out of 276,000 af coming into the valley) are used in the valley, and 42,400 af will be exported, 109,200 af remain unaccounted for, as does all water currently stored in Eastern Sierra reservoirs.

Even ignoring stored water and the unaccounted for 109,200 af, proposed cuts to irrigation could be restored by using a portion of the 42,400 DWP wants to export. Mr. Yannota’s assertion is false and the drastic reductions are not necessary.  DWP is using drought to justify another water grab.

Rather than insist on a credible analysis of water availability, Inyo Supervisors called a public workshop and spent 5 hours doing DWP’s dirty work trying to persuade constituents to accept reduced flows. They invoked the concept of “shared sacrifice.”  They seem to have forgotten that the irrigation to be sacrificed is itself mitigation for previous “unshared sacrifice” inflicted by DWP.

Under the Water Agreement, reductions in flows must be approved by the Standing Committee.  This gives the Board of Supervisors power to refuse the reductions. Please contact you supervisor and ask that the board stop invoking shared sacrifice and, instead, protect the county’s interest by rejecting proposed irrigation reductions.  If the drought continues next year, shared sacrifice may truly be necessary.  Right now, it is a euphemism for “greater exploitation.”

Daniel Pritchett




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10 Responses to Letter to the Editor: ‘Talking water, talking nonsense’

  1. John Barton May 4, 2015 at 12:03 pm #

    Good work digging into the numbers, Daniel. I hope the county holds DWP accountable.

  2. Philip Anaya May 4, 2015 at 3:36 pm #

    Thank you Daniel for the information . I am looking forward to reading Deb Murphy’s story here on the Wave , on the Tech Group Meeting this morning to see if DWP had any answers to the 109,200 AF of water unaccounted for

  3. easystrider May 4, 2015 at 3:52 pm #

    “They seem to have forgotten that the irrigation to be sacrificed is itself mitigation for previous “unshared sacrifice” inflicted by DWP.” Exactly, LA DWP wants to us to double on our “share” of unmitigated sacrifice while they play a shell game by not counting the acre feet in storage reservoirs. So much for honesty. Meanwhile the County administration seems to have forgotten to remember that they are not The County, the are hired representatives; hired to look out for the people they do represent.

  4. Chris May 4, 2015 at 4:28 pm #

    Jim Yannota was quoted, “There is not enough water available to meet all of the competing water demands throughout Owens Valley.” I would reply that, “There is not enough water available to meet all of the competing water demands throughout Los Angeles!”

  5. High Water May 4, 2015 at 9:26 pm #

    Well said Mr. Pritchett
    The board of supervisors needs 4 more of you. Credulousness by county leaders is being to kind
    Incompetent sounds better.

  6. Philip Anaya May 5, 2015 at 4:58 pm #

    From DWP Real Time Data Website , Northern District Daily Report May 3, 2015

    LV Resv ( Crowley ) elevation 6763.4 102,446 AF

    PV Resv ( Pleasant Valley) elev. 4381.4 2,174 AF

    Tin RESV ( Tinnemaha) elevation 3861.5 2,407 AF

    N Haiwee elevation 3757.5 6,571 AF

    S Haiwee elevation 3740.6 26,449 AF

    The storage figures change daily. I did look at May 4 and 5 and the numbers indicate that water is flowing out of S. Haiwee
    DWP needs share what these reports are actually saying and if water is currently being exported to Los Angeles or not .

  7. Philip Anaya May 5, 2015 at 5:21 pm #

    Forgot to list

    Grant Lake elevation 7089.8 11.792 AF

    These 6 Reservoirs on May 3, 2015 are holding a total of 151,839 AF

    BTW. Flows from Bishop Creek (below plant 6) have jumped up to 70cfs from the 40cfs range through the month of April . This is still below the Chandler flow regimen but it means we are probably going to empty South and Sabrina sooner than later

    • Number May 6, 2015 at 1:57 am #

      Have you seen South Lake recently? I dont understand how any water is flowing out of that lake. Seriously, is there a deep intake pipe , because the water level is way below the bottom of the dam?

      • Bob May 6, 2015 at 8:21 am #

        A tunnel was constructed beneath the bottom of the lake and a hole blasted through, the lake has drained far below its old shoreline.

  8. Michael Prather May 6, 2015 at 5:24 pm #

    The 109,400 AF of missing water is listed as conveyance losses/evaporation, Evapotransporation(ET) and infiltration. Storage is another matter. Most of the storage may be in Mono County at Crowley Lake (56% capacity) and have requirements on it that benefit that county. There may be obligations for watering the Gorge or for DWP power generation. Ranchers spoke at ‘Talking Water’ and said that they know that they must reduce water use, but did not want to be the only ones to do so. They asked for equity. Some water will be recovered from Owens Lake, and more over time is planned by way of the OL Master Projec. Has OVC voted to support reductions in the Lower Owens River and other MOU projects yet?

    Daniel Pritchett is vice president of the Owens Valley Committee.


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