As we have reported, the groundwater table has dropped below a half dozen or so homeowners’ wells in West Bishop and one community well. With what appears to be ongoing drought, concerns have heightened. Some wonder if the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has pumped too much or if management of Bishop Creek drainage waters led to a lower West Bishop groundwater. One well driller, who is currently at work on new wells in West Bishop, offers his views.
When contacted about wells he is drilling deeper in West Bishop, Russell Kile, owner of Maranatha Drilling, said overall there is a general trend of a declining water table which has dropped, he said, over many years. Kile said he believes it was accelerated this year due to a lack of surface water.
Kile said a lot of the wells in trouble have had problems for a number of years. Asked if DWP pumping over time may have caused the issues, Kile said DWP has not changed its pattern. He named one of DWP’s favorite excuses for pumping – watering the Lower Owens River and dust on the Owens Dry Lake.
Kile gave DWP credit for lowering the groundwater thirty feet or so. He said the groundwater used to sit at nearly ground level. Now, he said, DWP should get good marks for lowering the groundwater and improving water quality.
What about the fact that the roots of plants don’t go down 30 feet? Kile said where people want plants they can put them in and water them. As for the West Bishop homes no longer able to get water, Kile said their wells will be drilled down to 150 feet. He said the State of California is helping small water companies like one in West Bishop.
Kile did point to the Hillside Decree, won by local families in 1940, which bans DWP from export of groundwater in the Bishop area. LA can pump water but must use it on their lands in what is called the Bishop Cone. Under the Long Term Water Agreement, DWP is supposed to conduct an annual audit of Bishop Cone pumping.
Stan Matlick, whose family won the Hillside Decree, passed away last spring but consistently maintained that he believed LA was exporting groundwater that was co-mingled with other water in the complex canals and channels in the Bishop area.