The Inyo County Water Department drafted its recommendation on the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power pumping plan for the 2021-22 water year , asking the department to pump 8-percent less than its minimum of 64,600 acre-feet.
Citing areas in the Owens Valley that have yet to recover from the 2012-16 drought, plus the strong possibility the drought patterns of the past 35 years will continue into the future, Water Department Director Aaron Steinwand recommended a maximum pumping volume of 59,377 a-f, based on the water required for in-valley uses in addition to exports.
Steinwand made a detailed presentation at this week’s Water Commission meeting, then a shorter version at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors’ meeting. The Board approved the recommendation.
The County’s introductory comments clearly sum up the approach the Water Department took in its assessment “59,377 acre-feet is a more prudent plan for the upcoming drought year which allows the multiple goals of the Long Term Water Agreement to be met with a more sustainable approach: a significant amount of groundwater would be pumped for use in Owens Valley and export to Los Angeles, while stabilizing shallow water level conditions that are compatible with groundwater dependent vegetation protected by the Water Agreement.”
Here’s an abbreviated list of specific concerns from the County’s 13-page letter to LADWP:
- Tests on one of the Five Bridges wells, W386, should be postponed until after the results of the test of its partner well, W386, have been evaluated and when water level conditions have improved in the area. Impacts from the 1980s have not been fully mitigated, the document states.
- According to the comments, the 19,255 a-f for the Fish Springs hatchery could be reduced. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife have been analyzing their operations and water requirements. Pumping from two wells may not be necessary in the fall or winter for hatchery operations. The comments suggest working with CDFW on a delivery infrastructure to allow for varying capacity.
- Of the 46 indicator wells monitored by Inyo County, only four recorded lower depth-to-water levels. The four wells that showed an increase in water level, that increase was less than 6-inches.
- A theme that runs throughout the County’s evaluation of vegetation: it takes far more time to recover than it takes to deteriorate.
The next step: a discussion of the LADWP plan at the Technical Group meeting, May 10.