A spring ritual: Groundwater pumping discussions under way

By Deb Murphy

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power released its operation plan, focusing on pumping volumes, April 20, kicking off a series of events that historically has ended with a volume at or near the proposed maximum. The water extractions will be used in the valley for irrigation, enhancement/mitigation projects and for export.

Total water export to Los Angeles, based on an estimate of 137-percent of normal, is 374,300 acre-feet supplying 66-percent of the City’s water needs.

The next step, Inyo County’s Water Department releases its comments on the plan. That happened yesterday. And, true to form, Inyo recommended a volume less than LADWP’s maximum.

Here’s how those numbers shake out, starting at Laws and moving south through LADWP’s well fields:

  • Laws and Bishop: Inyo agreed with LADWP’s proposed maximum of 8,220 and 11,280 acre-feet, respectively. Bishop pumping is limited by the Hillside Decree to a volume equivalent to what is used by the department for irrigation and enhancement/mitigation projects.

  • Big Pine: Inyo recommended the minimum identified by LADWP, or 21,000 a-f. Water from the Big Pine wellfields to be used for hatcheries, the town water system and export.

  • Taboose-Aberdeen: LADWP range was 2,580 to 8,820 a-f; Inyo recommended 7,750

  • Thibaut-Sawmill: Inyo agreed with LADWP’s maximum, 9,160 a-f.

  • Independence-Oak: LADWP’s range was 6,420 to 8,880 a-f. Inyo went with the minimum

  • Symmes-Shepherd: Both went with 960 a-f.

  • Bairs-George: LADWP’s maximum was 2,610 a-f; Inyo recommended 500 a-f.

  • Lone Pine: Both agreed on 870-a-f.

  • The total range from LADWP was 50,350 to 73,710; Inyo’s recommendation added up to 66,160 a-f.

LADWP’s summary states “high runoff and low groundwater pumping are expected to promote further rise in groundwater levels throughout Owens Valley.” In a phone interview shortly after the department released its operation plan, Aqueduct Manager Clarence Martin explained the pumping volumes are based on a number of hydrological elements as well as in valley uses and the needs of Los Angeles.

At last week’s Inyo County Water Commission meeting, Aaron Steinwand and Keith Rainville went through each wellfield outlining depth-to-water and vegetation conditions, the basis for Inyo’s recommendations. The County recommended minimum pumping volumes in those wellfields where the maximum would drop the water table according to staff calculations.

Locals at that Water Commission meeting strongly favored minimum pumping in all wellfields to maximize groundwater recharge.

The department’s operations plan will be on this Monday’s Standing Committee meeting agenda, but approval by the Committee isn’t required.



The Inyo County/Los Angeles Water Agreement provides that each year the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) will develop an annual operations and pumping plan for the Owens Valley consistent with the goals of the Agreement. By April 20, LADWP must submit to the County a proposed plan for the twelve month period beginning April 1. The County has 10 days (April 30) to comment on DWP’s proposal. LADWP must meet with the County’s Technical Group representatives within 10 (May 10) days of the receipt of the County’s comments to try to resolve the County’s concerns. LADWP then has 10 days after meeting with the County to revise its operations and pumping plan and then implement the plan.

An important component of the DWP Operation Plan is the Pumping Program.

In 1990, the County and LADWP adopted a Drought Recovery Policy that requires the Inyo/Los Angeles Standing Committee’s approval of LADWP’s annual operations and pumping plans before LADWP implements the plan.

LADWP 2019 Draft Annual Owens Valley Report

2019 Draft Annual Owens Valley Report

Inyo County Comments on LADWP’s proposed Annual Operations Plan for Runoff Year 2019-2020


, ,

1 Comment
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Edie Trimmer
Edie Trimmer
4 years ago

great summary