Keeping an eye on the groundwater pumps

groundwater-pumpbp-1Stan Matlick of Bishop long protected the underground water of the Bishop area. His family won the Hillside Decree which banned DWP from exporting groundwater in Bishop. He fought later court battles and patrolled Department of Water and Power pumps to watch out for the water. Matlick died in May but left word with a friend to check on Well Number 406 in northwest Bishop. Matlick said it should go off in early October.

When asked about this, DWP officials said that Los Angeles’s interpretation is that they can pump as much as they use in surface water on what’s called the Bishop Cone or Bishop area. They claim they can keep pumping Well 406 because they haven’t pumped as much as they have used in surface water.

Inyo Water Director Bob Harrington said that there are concerns about downstream uses justifying DWP running pumps in Bishop. Harrington said that Well 406 generally runs at about 150 to 160 acre feet per month from April through September and is “very seldom run outside of the irrigation season.”

Harrington said during those six months, there is downstream irrigation greater than the amount pumped by the well, so operating the well is “compliant with the Hillside Decree.” He said after September if the pumping appears greater than the uses, the Inyo Water Department would ask that LADWP turn the well off. Harrington said that in the past DWP has generally agreed to such requests.

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Philip Anaya
Philip Anaya
8 years ago

The purpose and the task of the DWP in the Owens Valley is to send water down the Aqueduct to Los Angeles. Their desperation for acre feet is now being played out in this driest part of this 2nd drought year. The 8 pumping wells in the “Bishop Cone” with the 13 free flow wells along side the Owens River also in the “Bishop Cone” were intended to supply water to the DWP owned lands that are within the Cone. These waters were not for export. These lands are leased to the Ranchers and the water that is applied to those lands hopefully makes it’s way down into the earth providing soilwater for native vegetation, crops and is supposed to recharge the aquifers and not effect the water table and the water wells belonging to all the rest of us.
A careful and accurate monitoring of the water tables however does not always meet the purpose of the Hillside decree nor the Longterm Water Agreement which is supposed to be also regulating the pumping activities of the DWP. Pumps when going such as 410 W, 406 W , 371W and 411W all drain directly into the Bishop Canal. There are the leases along the Canal that are getting their water and so they should. However the Canal waters flow thru to the Owens River to the Aqueduct to Los Angeles. The Bishop Canal does come from the Owens River and does add water for usage in the Cone. Pumps 407W and 408W are in the lease holder’s fields east and south of Barlow.The flow thru for these two pumps goes thru the Golf Course and then 140 W adds more to the Ditch that then runs east across 395 where 412W adds more water that then in a bout a couple of hundred yards also goes into the Bishop Canal. This shell game schuffling of runoff waters ,Owens River waters,Pumped waters, free flow well waters all the thru flows all end up in the Owens River and the Aqueduct.
The free flows wells are not measured. The amount of water flows thru the most primitve of any kind of measuring weir. The usage weirs look very different and have to be accurate, the pumping wells have measurement devices as well . What we have to do however is trust the judgement of DWP A and R Keepers to guess, to estimate the acre feet coming out of these freeflow’s and we have to trust the DWP’s Annual Bishop Cone Audit usage numbers ,pumped water numbers as there is no one in the County Water Dept with the title or the job of a compliance officer who is also reading the measurement devices. Now this history of all of this in some folks minds is questionable data. It’s a longer story than this post .
This 2nd year drought has brought dry ditches in the Bishop Cone, specifically in the Bishop Creek drainage The fact that the water is “not there” also has to do with the fact that the DWP knows where it went . Edison, as reported, had requested variances to it’s requirements to provide DWP water. DWP had purchase the water rights addressed in the Chandler Decree. Edison had requested the variances in past years and was able to ration the flows in a sustainable level for the entire year keeping water in Sabrina and South Lakes. Granted this has been an exceptional year, work was done on the South Lake Dam but why was Edison not allowed by DWP to do the best that they could do?
During normal runoff years the flow thru throught the Ditch systems have a loss of water to evaporation and of water going back into the ground. This water charges the water table for the wells, where there is a ditch system and another benefit is the bio system where frogs ,trout ,ducks etc are born and bred. If there is no water in the ditches then there is no loss of acre feet. So if DWP creates a scenario where there will be weeks , months of no water in the ditch systems then they are saving that water. The idiotic evil idea to not maintain a plan for at least a minimum flow for the aquatic environment let alone to rob the water table of a recharge dynamic is a new low for whoever has allowed this to happen and it’s the only reason I can figure a out why the Lakes were emptied . There ‘s no sure thing in this life. I really feel for the Sabrina and South Lake Operators , the Local Sporting Goods folks . They like the fish are having their existence threatened. The one sure thing in life however is that DWP will never cease to amaze with their desperation and poor shortsighted management decisions.