Letter to the editor: DWP Manager addresses lakes, wells

DWP Aqueduct Manager James Yannotta

DWP Aqueduct Manager James Yannotta

This letter is to provide accurate information about the levels of South Lake and Lake Sabrina, as well as about the operation of a well and ditches in the West Bishop area. Without a doubt, the single biggest and primary cause of low lake levels, low groundwater levels supplying wells, and low flows in creeks and ditches, is the past two successive extremely dry years in the Eastern Sierra. It is a matter of public record that 2013 was the driest year on record for the State of California, and as of today’s date, 2014 is not looking any better. Eastern Sierra precipitation levels are at about 20 percent of normal. Even if we receive normal precipitation from today until April 1 which is considered the beginning of the 2014 runoff year, the Eastern Sierra will experience below normal runoff during the 2014 spring and summer.

South Lake and Lake Sabrina

The levels of South Lake and Lake Sabrina are not managed by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP). Southern California Edison (SCE) stores water in the two lakes and controls their operation. The 1922 Court-ordered Chandler Decree prescribes flow requirements for Bishop Creek that must be adhered to by SCE and which can have an impact on the lake levels particularly in extremely low snowpack runoff years such as the Eastern Sierra has experienced the past two years, and during the current very dry year. The Chandler Decree does not provide authority to LADWP to modify the provisions of the Court order. While LADWP has allowed SCE to store a portion of the City of Los Angeles’ (City) water rights in South Lake and Lake Sabrina in the past, this does not modify the provisions of the Chandler Decree. What LADWP has previously allowed is for SCE to hold back some of the City’s water rights in South Lake and/or Lake Sabrina when sufficient water was available in excess of that needed to meet the flow requirements mandated by the Chandler Decree, along with LADWP’s water obligations. During the 2013 runoff year, there simply wasn’t enough water available to allow SCE to meet the provisions of the Chandler Decree and hold back the City’s water rights.

West Bishop Wells

On December 7, 2013, the Inyo County Water Department (ICWD) expressed concern that LADWP well W407 may be affecting some private wells. In the West Bishop area, LADWP had been running one well, W407, to provide stock water to a number of its lessees on the Bishop Cone. While LADWP did not believe that this well was affecting other private wells in the area, LADWP was amenable to shutting it off in order to confirm whether or not the well was affecting private wells. After LADWP’s lessees were given time to make other arrangements for stock water, LADWP shut off well W407 on December 11, 2013, and the groundwater response was monitored by both the ICWD and LADWP. By December 13, 2013, it was clear that the groundwater table in the area of private wells in the West Bishop area was not being affected by well W407. In a December 13 email the ICWD informed LADWP, “It does not appear that W407 is affecting water levels…or is the cause of the recent drop in the water level (in the Highland Drive area). The Water Department (ICWD) does not object to resuming operation of W407 to supply stockwater to lessees and use permit holders.”

However, because other arrangements had been made for stock water, LADWP did not resume the operation of well W407 and the well has remained off. LADWP continues to monitor water levels in the area that are of concern in West Bishop. The water table in the area has shown no reaction to the operation of well W407 which confirms well W407 had no effect on the water table in the area of the West Bishop private wells.

West Bishop Ditches

The significantly below normal snowpack runoff the Eastern Sierra has experienced over the last two years and thus far this year has resulted in very low and in some cases a lack of flow in streams and in ditches in the West Bishop area. There are many priorities for delivering flows. As best as possible, flows must be maintained in streams to keep fish in good condition, in ditches to satisfy LADWP obligations to the Bishop tribe, and for stockwater, irrigation, and other operational needs. However, this year there has not been sufficient water available to provide and sustain water in all ditches.

LADWP is committed to achieving all of its obligations in the Owens Valley. Unfortunately, the impact of successive years of significantly below normal precipitation, for which no one has control, has adversely affected what water is available to both the Owens Valley and Los Angeles.

 

Sincerely,

James G. Yannotta

Manager of Aqueduct

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power

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15 Comments
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rockerchic
rockerchic
7 years ago

If LA is so concerned about their water, sustainability, the environment and their citizens, then why are they allowing MORE urban $prawl and hou$ing development, which only increases the demand for water?

Daris
Daris
8 years ago

April I did not see any mention of a resolution between DWP and Inyo in the Jan 28th agenda package. My questions are to whoever may know please let me know. What resolution and where do we comment? How can our supervisors sign an agreement if it is not on… Read more »

Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
8 years ago
Reply to  Daris

They already did sign a letter to DWP regarding policy at the dry lake. I have copied and pasted it here: January 21, 2014 Mr. Mel Levine, President Board of Water and Power Commissioners Department of Water and Power of the City of Los Angeles 111 North Hope Street Los… Read more »

Philip Anaya
Philip Anaya
8 years ago
Reply to  Benett Kessler

In this Inyo County response to LADWP’s requirements for it’s Master Project at Owens Lake there are folks in the Owens Valley who are unfortunately reading it for the first time. Yes indeed , watch the water , sign up for email notifications with the ICWD for meetings, but where… Read more »

Philip Anaya
Philip Anaya
8 years ago
Reply to  Daris

The item for the resolution is number 13 on the Agenda

Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
8 years ago
Reply to  Philip Anaya

It’s a drought proclamation resolution. I think Ms. Zrelak’s concern is that it mentions reallocation of water used to keep dust down on the dry lake. Of course, only the Great Basin Air Pollution Control District has jurisdiction over dust control. LA has chosen to use water and now does… Read more »

April Zrelak
April Zrelak
8 years ago

Everyone needs to contact their supervisor to tell him/her not to sign the water resolution next Tuesday. Go to inyocounty.us to see the packet for the agenda. There should be public meetings before the Board of Supervisors put in drastic changes to land management, give up air quality standards, and… Read more »

Deseret Tortoise
Deseret Tortoise
8 years ago
Reply to  April Zrelak

In case you were unaware, Los Angeles has water rationing right now and have had it in place for a number of years. The ordinance places restrictions on the days one may water their lawn, the number of minutes per day of watering allowed, prohibits hosing sidewalks and driveways and… Read more »

MJA
MJA
8 years ago

Surely with no snow melt to fill the lakes and ponds and canals and recharge the ground water the aqueduct must be empty too, right? Or are you still pumping and diverting water Mr.Yanotta from the Owens to LA? Thanks, =

sugar magnolia
sugar magnolia
8 years ago

Interesting report I saw on a sacramento tv station, apparently reservoirs in northern california are all very low, some as low as 17% full. While reservoirs in sourthern california are mostly full, some as much as 85% full. Of course, the water in those reservoirs comes from the north.

Ken Warner
Ken Warner
8 years ago
Reply to  sugar magnolia

Depending on which part of SoCal you are talking about, some water comes from the Colorado River. And (I think) some water comes from up North.

Desert Tortoise`
Desert Tortoise`
8 years ago
Reply to  sugar magnolia

Nope. Much of MWDs water still comes from the Colorado River. So Cal, and LA in particular, have taken water conservation to heart. LA County water use is down to under 150 gallons per person per day, while LA City is below 125 gppd. Inyo County’s non agricultural water use… Read more »

Steve
Steve
8 years ago

I recently read a report done using satellite imagery of LA. The report counted all the swimming pools in LA not including the San Fernando valley. The count was 43,123 pools. That would be enough pools for every man, woman and child in Inyo Co. could have 2.39 pools each.… Read more »

MajorTom
MajorTom
8 years ago
Reply to  Steve

I’ll bet none of those pools were covered to avoid loss from evaporation.

Philip Anaya
Philip Anaya
8 years ago

Mr.Yannotta, Without a doubt the drought has had it’s effects in the Eastern Sierra, however we are not talking about empty lakes, we are talking about emptied lakes, the primary cause being the Edison’s and DWP’s Operations and Management. Certainly there has been less snowpack these past two years however… Read more »