Water Master explains ditches and duties

wellrigResidents of West Bishop now keep a wary eye on their groundwater levels and their private wells. Some property owners have reportedly started to meet to share their fears. Seven or so domestic wells have dried up. Many question why the groundwater dropped – forcing homeowners to drill much deeper wells.

Some attention has focused on the Department of Water and Power’s pumping over the years. Inyo’s Water Director said preliminary investigation pointed to a lack of recharge due to dry years. Most of the ditches that flow through yards in West Bishop dried up some months ago. Sierra Wave Media checked with the Water Master of the Bishop Creek Water Association for another view.

Miles Maillet has worked as Water Master for two years. He described his main job as evenly dividing the main Indian ditch that flows from Bishop Creek below Edison’s Plant 6 into three ditches which flow downhill through residential areas and ultimately to DWP lessees off Barlow Lane and to Reservation areas.

Maillet said, “The amount of water in the main Indian ditch is 3.5 cubic feet per second. I spread that as equally as possible into three lower ditches.” Those three ditches are the Hall Ditch, the South Indian Ditch and the North Indian Ditch. They flow into West Bishop.

Some residents of the area said they thought Underwood and Glennbrook got more ditch flow than Highland and Sunset. Maillet said that’s not the case. He said that the Hall Ditch comes out on the corner in front of two houses on Underwood but then immediately goes to leases with livestock. Maillet said a community well also serves Underwood, Glennbrook and Sierra Vista.

Other properties have individual wells or community wells. Maillet said Highland Drive was the first to experience dry ditches, but he said that is not because their water was cut off by head gates. He said it’s because of the lack of water in Bishop Creek.

North Bishop Creek runs through the McLaren area where water still serves ditches. Overall, Maillet said most residential areas in West Bishop do not have water in their yard ditches. Last winter, according to Maillet, Bishop Creek registered a flow of 45 cfs. This year, the flow is down to 20 cfs or more. Said Maillet, “I can’t give them what I don’t have.”

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10 Responses to Water Master explains ditches and duties

  1. BobK January 23, 2014 at 9:08 pm #

    Excuse me, My last comment was directed to Major Tom, not Philip, I believe that he knows that already. Also, most, if not all of the ponds use the water from the ditches fed by Bishop Cr. not from the groundwater. Bob

    • MajorTom January 24, 2014 at 1:04 pm #

      Yea, I got that. Surface water feeds the ditches which keeps the groundwater table high so shallow wells are effective. When the ditches aren’t running, the wells don’t work. It seems like an inefficient system, as opposed to deepening wells to take advantage of reliable groundwater supplies, and using less water for landscaping purposes. I don’t have any philosophical objection to people having ponds in their yards, but it seems that is the first use that should go in times of scarcity, particularly when there are ranchers all over the valley that are selling cattle because they lack the water to maintain their herds.

      I don’t know how the accounting is done on the Bishop cone and I am far from an expert on the Chandler/Hillside decrees, but my understanding of their purpose is to prevent DWP from pumping water from the area for export so that the Bishop area does not suffer the catastrophic degradation that the south county suffers. Seems like those decrees have worked fairly well in that respect.

      Seems like the real question is whether DWP has caused the water problems in west Bishop.

  2. BobK January 23, 2014 at 2:33 pm #

    Phillip: I don’t know about all well owners, but the ones where I live in West Bishop use there wells for all of their domestic water. We receive nothing from outside water systems. No well, no water.

  3. Philip Anaya January 22, 2014 at 11:21 pm #

    There was twice as much water in Bishop Creek last winter because there was a cooperative plan that saved water in South and Sabrina Lakes as in most years since the 70’s. This past year however, there was the new LADWP management that denied the historic cooperative management with Edison and DWP took the water fast and furious never allowing South and Sabrina to fill, to recover so that there would be some water in the ditches in August September October and maybe even December. Add to this is that DWP has extracted over 4600 acre feet ( 2011-12 Bishop Cone Audit) from the Aquifer from their 4 production wells in the area. If you remember last week or two there was a press release from the City of Bishop. They extracted a total of 1600 acre feet from their wells with only 60-65% of that number ( 960 -1040 acre feet) from their facility on Westline just up the road from Manor Market. The City of Bishop is not the problem . They do not export their water.
    There needs to be a study that includes some good estimates of the total domestic well extractions in West Bishop. There is some data of the flows from Bishop Creek and some science regarding the recharge of the Aquifer. DWP should have concerns that their operations of extraction and surface flow management does not effect the domestic wells that can no longer benefit from the lowered water table. I think that soft shoe approaches to this problem are not yet helping folks who are losing their wells and it’s time for the County to immediately give these folks some support and relief. If the County can not elicit DWP cooperation or enforce the Long Term Water Agreement, then it is time to find some method to get water to these homes . The City of Bishop has a deep well and sufficient water and maybe we need some cooperative emergency pipeline relief . It does not seem that DWP has any interest in being neighbors. I haven’t had yet a positive, helpful or a caring word from them regarding the Recovery of the Lakes this next year.
    When one neighborhood in the Valley is being impacted so severely as this, it is time for all the neighborhoods in the Valley including those in Independence and Lone Pine to become alarmed. It is time for all the neighbors to hook up and network with each other, and ask your supervisor for a response for a solution, because we have a serious drought and a serious DWP who is going to do their upmost to literally take every drop of water that they can to Los Angeles and they don’t care if your well runs dry. Respond to that Mr. Yannotta.

    • MajorTom January 23, 2014 at 12:38 pm #


      Not that I have any particular love for DWP, but judging from the fact that only very shallow wells seem to be affected and they only worked because of all the water used for landscaping in the area, you seem to be arguing that we all should protect a few people’s use of water for landscaping. Isn’t this type of use the first that should go in a drought?

      It makes no sense to me to use Bishop’s wells to pump water out of the ground to fill ponds in people’s yards so that their ineffective wells continue to work, with all the loss of water that entails. California just had its driest year ever, there are bound to be impacts. DWP is prohibited from exporting groundwater from the Bishop cone and I haven’t seen any evidence that they are doing so. Am I missing something?

      • Benett Kessler January 23, 2014 at 1:23 pm #

        Those who have looked for evidence, like the late Stan Matlick, believed molecules of pumped water were mixed with others and leaving the Cone. Hard to prove. Doesn’t the County take DWP’s figures for Cone activity?
        Benett Kessler

      • Philip Anaya January 23, 2014 at 9:35 pm #

        Major Tom ,

        I think that water tables are a lot like bank accounts. The amounts in each have to do with how much you deposit and how much you withdraw.
        Dr. Harrington in his preliminary assesment of the West Bishop Water Table Issues provides a graph of a monitoring well T389 on the last page of the report.


        During the years that are on this graph there has been periods of drought but none of the years reflect the severe degree of loss of water table elevation as this past year.
        All things being somewhat constant year to year in DWP Operations the one thing that stands out is the ditch system drying up in August. Bishop Creek Flows are regulated into the penstocks between the Edison Power Plants 1-6 with some water still in Bishop Creek. The recharge into the West Bishop Water Table comes from the braided Bishop Creek flows below Plant # 6 and the ditch systems in West Bishop
        The shallow wells will be the first to be affected by a lowered water table. These wells have been there for decades and had not gone dry previous to this year, when DWP changed their method by taking their water early fast and furious to avoid the conveyance loss of water absorbing into the ground , evaporation into the air and irrigation where folks use the water on their yards .
        DWP this past year has extracted and did not manage for recharge ,yet their extraction amounts I bet were similar to previous years.
        As far as DWP exporting water from the Bishop Cone take a drive along the western side of the Owens River . Check out the free flow wells that are flowing directly into the River. There are a lot of questions about how the Bishop Cone Operations of the DWP is managed but we need first to address people having their domestic wells run dry.
        You know Major Tom ,we are talking about water in the ground ,we can’t see it ,we hope that it’s there . It’s not real important if you or I are missing something. What’s important is that DWP shouldn’t be missing anything in it’s Management of it’s Operations. They are the biggest extractors in the Bishop Cone and they need to insure with their surface flow management that there will be adequete water for everyone. That’s the core issue with both the Hillside and Chandler Decrees and it looks as though we need to revisit these issues once again.

  4. BobK January 22, 2014 at 7:27 pm #

    Geez, Mr. Lips, Ya think that it might have something to do with the drought?

  5. Waxlips January 22, 2014 at 3:41 pm #

    Okay next question, why isn’t there enough water to go around?

    • bishop93514 January 22, 2014 at 8:09 pm #

      Probably has something to do with a statewide drought.


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