The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power wants to pump more water from the Owens Valley this year, and DWP did not come up with pumping plans for Big Pine and Aberdeen based on groundwater levels as Inyo County had asked.
The good news this year – lots of run-off. DWP says it’s 150% of the long term average. In fact, Los Angeles will take care of its own water supply this year largely with Eastern Sierra water. DWP’s operations plan says 71% of this year’s water supply for the City of LA comes from right here. 17% from Metropolitan Water District purchases and 10% from LA groundwater.
While LADWP will lean heavily on Inyo-Mono water, their operations plan has made no effort to fulfill Inyo’s request last year to develop a special pumping plan for Aberdeen and Big Pine that would use depth to water as a basis for management. Amazingly, DWP uses a complex formula of soil moisture and other factors to decide when to pump and when to stop.
Last year, DWP wanted to pump 86,000 acre feet which Inyo Water Director Bob Harrington said would cause damage, but he fell short of a dispute of that figure and asked DWP to come up with a new pilot project this year. So far, DWP hasn’t, and their plan proposes 91,000 acre feet of pumping. Harrington did say that fortunately last year DWP pumped 78,000 acre feet not the stetted 86,000.
However, Harrington also said that the Water Department’s research and analysis generally suggests that sustainable pumping for the Owens Valley is close to 70,000 acre feet. He added that overall conditions are not too bad considering the run-off. “91,000 acre feet is higher than we would like,” said Harrington, “but it’s not a death spiral,” he said.
Harrington said he and the staff are running numbers and analyzing DWP’s plan. The County will come up with comments by the end of the month. In fact, Harrington will have something to say at next Tuesday’s Inyo Supervisors meeting. The Inyo Water Commission may have something to say, too. They will meet Monday at 6pm in the Superior Courtroom in Bishop.