LADWP: Historic drought requires historic solutions

Op-Ed by Amanda Parsons, LADWP Spokesperson

When gazing at the Sierra Nevada Mountains this year there is a harsh reality staring back: California is in the midst of a four-year drought – a drought so dire that it is unparalleled by any in the recorded history of the State. Snow pack in the Eastern Sierra was measured at only 4 percent of normal and runoff this year is only 36 percent of normal, far shattering the previous lowest year.

Twin Lakes Photos courtesy LADWP

Twin Lakes
Photos courtesy LADWP

Many in the community are pleased that virtually no water from the LA Aqueduct will be exported south of Owens Lake, likely until November. But the harsh reality is, this year, there simply is not enough water to meet all of our obligations in the Owens Valley for the environment, local agriculture, tribal lands, irrigation, stockwater, recreation, and dust mitigation on Owens Lake. This reality is further complicated by the fact that required legal obligations and stipulated judgments have bound the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) to use what little water is available to fulfill certain mandates, causing others to receive less.

For those who attended the County Board of Supervisors workshop meeting last Tuesday to discuss the lack of water, we want to thank you for voicing your opinions and making yourself heard. Constructive suggestions were brought up by the County Supervisors and the community.

Owens River

Owens River

Jim Yannotta, LADWP Manager of Aqueduct, is pleased to report that with cooperation of the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District (Great Basin), irrigation to LADWP leaseholders will not be shut off on May 1st as previously considered. This collaboration between Great Basin and LADWP allowed us to reach a mutually agreed upon solution for water savings on Owens Lake this spring, providing additional water for irrigation to continue for the near term, and helping local agriculture and the Owens Valley economy in the process.

This agreement with Great Basin couldn’t have been achieved without the help of the community and their participation in this complicated discussion. As the discussion continues, there is opportunity for further water savings that could be made available for irrigation or other uses. However, several questions remain in the community – questions about LADWP’s timing, reasoning, and numbers.

Crystal Crag

Crystal Crag

We understand that the timing of our letter to our leaseholders notifying them of our need to shut off irrigation water appears to have been done with too short of notice.

LADWP wants to emphasize that staff made efforts prior to the release of that letter to alert our stakeholders of the impacts this drought would have on local operations. A letter was sent to all our leaseholders in March informing them that irrigation amounts would be greatly reduced this year. We also invited a number of the members of the ranching community to our Bishop office almost two weeks ago once the final runoff numbers for this year were calculated showing an extreme shortage of water and lack of water for irrigation. The Department’s Annual Owens Valley Operations Plan is due to Inyo County on April 20 each year. Immediately, discussion with Inyo County Water Department and County officials ensued regarding the severity of the situation.

Continuing irrigation on our lease lands at the level it occurred during April would leave the Department short of water to meet all demands and our many legal obligations. LADWP staff worked to find solutions, but once the reality of the long list of legal obligations the Department faces came in to play, we had to show in the Operations Plan where the extremely limited amount of water would be used on LA-owned lands. Unless we neglected our legal requirements to the environment and for clean air by controlling dust on Owens Lake, we would not have enough water available for both the agricultural/ranching economy and environmental obligations in this Valley.  We needed to inform all of the lessees as soon as possible about this dire situation.

As for our numbers provided in the Operations Plan, every year water engineers across the globe account for a certain amount of losses from snow pack to tap. These losses can be attributed to ground infiltration, evaporation, plant transpiration, etc. This year, LADWP’s Water Engineers predicted a loss of 119,400 acre feet as this water seeps into the ground of the Owens Valley, evaporates into the air of the Owens Valley, is transpired by plants in the Owens Valley, and is used by private landholders in the Owens Valley.

To put that into context, during the last runoff year – the second-lowest year ever – 147,000 acre feet was lost due to these miscellaneous uses and losses. The Inyo/Los Angeles Water Agreement signed in 1991 by both the City of Los Angeles and the County accounted for 122,000 acre feet for these uses and losses. Both the City and County have operated under this mutually agreed upon expectation, derived from historical averages, for over twenty years. LADWP’s predicted loss amount is considerably less than last year’s actual losses. Meaning LADWP’s meager predictions for available water in the Valley and for export may be further reduced as the year progresses.

Each Annual Operations Plan is calculated using a runoff-year, April 1 through March 31. In order to account for our annual allotment numbers, predictions must be made for the second half of the runoff year, October through March. In our predictions LADWP is forecasting normal winter precipitation levels during the remainder of this runoff year. The 2015-16 Plan states LADWP will deliver 42,000 acre feet of water from the Eastern Sierra to LA this runoff year (10,000 of which is already in storage from previous years and is not a result of current runoff). This represents only about 15 percent of the Eastern Sierra water that is typically exported to Los Angeles. However, if we do not achieve normal precipitation levels during that period, then less water will come down the creeks next winter and less will be available to the Owens Valley and Los Angeles.

Although this reality is far from ideal for any of us, it has resulted in a positive outcome to address this critical situation in the near term thanks to responses from the community, the Inyo County Board of Supervisors and Great Basin.

For better or worse, Los Angeles is connected to the Eastern Sierra by the aqueduct that binds us. We are a huge part of the Valley’s history, the reason for its pristine present, and a valuable partner in the shaping of its successful future.

This is the worst drought on record. Los Angeles is feeling its impacts just like the Owens Valley, and the rest of California. We are all in this together.  If we continue to work collaboratively, listen to one another and accept the current reality, together we can develop productive solutions to this unprecedented situation. Let’s make history together.


Amanda Parsons is the Public Relations Representative from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power in the Owens Valley. If you have any questions regarding this issue or any LADWP operations, please don’t hesitate to contact her. She can be reached at 760-873-0264 or
[email protected].

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28 Responses to LADWP: Historic drought requires historic solutions

  1. tim dawson May 5, 2015 at 1:50 pm #

    To easystrider. I noticed my obvious incorrect spelling of the w word. I was hoping no one else would. To Low Inyo.I applaud you for your low usage and appreciate that we are like minded in our conservation efforts.Tim Dawson

    • eaststrider May 5, 2015 at 6:44 pm #

      Based on the context it could have been an appropriate pun (or autocorrect messing with us). In any case it s so important for us all to hang together or LA will hang us seperately. Remember the days of multiple car accidents during dust storms, or the highway closed due to dust and frequent dust related health alerts? We need to band together, stay vigilant and make sure the historic drought is not used to send us back to those days.

  2. Low-Inyo May 5, 2015 at 12:01 pm #

    tim dawson :….Looking at my water bill,usage for TWO months is now due….for a total (2 month total) is $66.38…….yours ?

  3. tim dawson May 4, 2015 at 9:16 pm #

    You don’t need to capitalize the word world. Most of your neighbors here in Bishop are likely millionaires..As for your water use compared to mine my one per day shower is about 2 gallons, my wife’s the same. Add to that that I am only in Bishop one or two days per week. Were you to see my water bill in Mammoth you would see my usage at one or two dollars per billing period. Forget your argument with all the bad guys down south stealing and wasting your water, it happens to be theirs. They bought it years ago weather you like it or not. Just conserve on your own and don’t waste. It is everyone’s problem

    • easystrider May 5, 2015 at 7:40 am #

      I agree, we should do what we can without criticizing others.. Also, weather happens wether or not we are prepared.

  4. Low-Inyo May 4, 2015 at 5:28 pm #

    tim dawson ;.Nobody said I’m going to run my water full blast into the drains just to be an ass.I’m not going to go out of my way NOT to conserve water….I’m not going to waste water just to prove a point.But then,on the other hand,I’m not going to have a dead,brown lawn in my front yard,my flower garden isn’t going to die,I’m not going to set my automatic sprinklers to go off once a month just to keep the ground from drying up and blowing away….I’m not going to take one or two showers a week,or wash my dishes once a month,or when I don’t have any left to eat off of.I’m not going to be like one of those kooks that go out and buy bottled water now waiting on the end of the World.I promise you this….I use a LOT less water than you and your family do…..and a LOT,LOT less than the millionaires and rich folks down south are doing right now….enough of the drama..

  5. tim dawson May 4, 2015 at 8:23 am #

    I disagree with the comments posted by Tony Cumia and Low Inyo. The fact that some individuals and municipalities are not practicing better water management should not be an excuse for those of us here in Inyo Mono to do the same. My family and I are challenging ourselves to be as careful and conservative as we can and be proud of our efforts as this is a problem that belongs to all of us. When you go turn on the faucet at the kitchen sink and nothing comes out it won’t matter who did the wasting and who did the saving. We will all be equally thirsty

  6. Badfinger39 May 4, 2015 at 7:18 am #

    The issue at is a socioeconomic one, a resource issue, which when triggered the global debt bubble bursts and Big Fat Pension Funds Collapse and people are unable to acquire basic necessities to live, then the world will become Baltimore, and ameriKKKa will be a Third world country within its FEMA Districts Land of the On Probation Not So Free, Home of the Debt Slave.

    • Stever May 5, 2015 at 7:08 am #

      I’m going to go out on a limb here, and I’m going to guess you have no idea what you just regurgitated.

  7. Low-Inyo May 3, 2015 at 3:27 pm #

    Rick ; Just like I said when they were saying no water from up here is going to L.A.,and won’t be untill November….I said it then,and I’ll say it again….HaHaHaHaHaHa !!!…What do they think they are….stupid ?

  8. Rick O'Brien May 3, 2015 at 12:40 am #

    I hate to admit it, but I fear my beloved East Walker River is going to to be in SERIOUS trouble by summer. I was up there (Nevada side) during the opener, and I could cross it in most spots without getting my ankles wet. Oh…and also, as far as NO water from the LA aqueduct going south of Owens Lake, on my way home, I stopped buy my old hunting spot which is adjacent to the original Aqueduct pipeline built in 1913 that has an inspection grate at the top of Grapevine Canyon (in Kern County). It wasn’t going full bore, but there was plenty of Mono county water flowing south, in the general direction of Los Angeles .

  9. Tony Cumia May 2, 2015 at 9:38 pm #

    I just drove thru the north San Fernando Valley early this afternoon…..All of the freeway landscaping water sprinklers were on at 1230 PM….My in- Laws live in Palos Verdes…there is not one dead lawn in the neighborhood. When I asked my in law whats up with that? She said that restrictions are only being talked about-not enforced, yet in June Lake where I live we are being told we are in stage 3 restrictions.Nice. Since I live at the start of LA’s water[June Lake] I am not watching my water usage. I use less than 30-40 gallons/day. Until LA stops all new construction and watering freeway landscaping, I’m not conserving jack squat. I think the only ones conserving are the ones who cannot afford the fines that will supposedly go into affect.

    • Low-Inyo May 3, 2015 at 11:17 am #

      Tony Cumia :What you saw in San Fernando Valley doesn’t surprise me a bit.Freeway landscaping and homes of the rich and famous of L.A. being watered at noon and lawns and landscapes along the freeway and the mansions looking nice and green.Lots of SoCalers think they are better than most,certainly better than us up here….and think they can do as they please,which they apparently can,if they have no fear of the “authorities” fining them for their over-use of water.I’m with you…I don’t feel I have to conserve squat,untill I watch the local SoCal news with reports of fines being imposed on those DOWN THERE that are ignoring the restrictions.Where I live and what I use,I can guarentee you,it’s even less than the 30-40 gallons a day you are using.But when I chose to wash my truck last weekend FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 4 MONTHS,while I was doing it,looking over my shoulder the whole while expecting a swat-team of LADWP employees,or some “authority wanna-be” exiting their vehicle, trying to put me in cuffs,and fining me $10,000….

    • Charles O. Jones May 3, 2015 at 12:40 pm #

      I just passed through LA recently and it certainly appears to be business as usual. Lots of bright green lawns and lush landscapes. No evidence of drought that I could see.

      “were all in this together”…
      Sounds good but where’s the beef Miss PR Lady?

    • Dan Watson May 3, 2015 at 3:01 pm #

      Reclaimed water is extensively used in Southern California, including on freeway landscaping, parks, and golf courses. The water used is not potable and if not used for purposes like this, goes into the LA river. My city has stopped watering center medians and other public areas that require potable water and those areas are already dying. More affluent areas, like Palos Verdes and Beverly Hills use much more water per capita, primarily because of larger lots with landscaping. That’s why they have been hit with water reductions of up to 36%.Those water districts will be using a variety of ways to get the reduction and if they don’t, fines of up to $10,000/day can be charged. That will be passed on to the violators. My city has to reduce 20% and they have implemented strict restrictions on the use of water for landscaping.

      • RandyKeller May 9, 2015 at 10:24 am #

        Reclaimed water is a partial step in the right direction. But wasting reclaimed water on lawns is still wasting water. Reclaimed water should be used to displace potable water on necessities, or further purified so it can go into the potable water system. Municipalities are starting to spend the money to clean waste water to drinking water standards. It’s a smart move.

    • Okay May 8, 2015 at 5:55 am #

      Dan Watson, freeway landscaping is definitely governed by the State of California, not the City of Los Angeles. Also, another FYI, Palos Verdes is not part of the City of Los Angeles either. So, evidently you are pointing out other municipalities that are not doing their part to conserve water. That’s great that you are not just attempting to use the City of Los Angeles as sole examples of municipalities not doing their part…

      • Dan Watson May 8, 2015 at 9:21 am #

        My comment was in response to Tony Cumia’s observation that freeway landscaping was being watered during the day. I made no mention of who is responsible, only that it is most likely reclaimed water. I’m well aware that Palos Verdes is not part of the City of Los Angeles. Tony referenced Palos Verdes so I did to. There are critics of the LA DWP that post on Sierra Wave,also critics of Southern California in general. When someone refers to LA, it often means the Los Angeles area which includes the city of LA and the other 87 cities in the county. Most Southern California cities, but not all, have done a lot to reduce water consumption.

        When I respond to other comments it’s to correct misinformation that is posted, not to attack others or deceive.

        • Philip Anaya May 8, 2015 at 3:22 pm #

          Didn’t know a thing about reclaimed water in the City of Los Angeles but found this

          They are calling it recycled water . They recycle if my calculations are correct 89,425 AF per year nearly half of which is recycled at the Tillman Plant and used in the Sepulveda basin on the 4 golf courses, Lake Balboa, Wild Lake and the Japanese water garden . Water also goes into the LA River and the LA Greenbelt project along the Northside of Griffith Park including Forest Lawn . The Hyperion Plant provides recycled water for the West side Project for irrigation and industrial purposes for Westchester , LA Airport, Playa Vista and Loyola -Marymount University. I did not see any reference yet on freeway irrigation or any of the private golf courses in the City and there are quite a few of those all I imagine with some hefty green fees if they let you in the door.

  10. Charles O. Jones May 2, 2015 at 11:52 am #

    Note to DWP:
    I think the residents of the OV and Eastern Sierra would be more sympathetic if they saw brown lawns at residences and golf courses throughout LA. Just a thought.

  11. Mark May 2, 2015 at 10:48 am #

    Uncharted territory ahead!

  12. biggame May 2, 2015 at 9:38 am #

    cancer causing irrigation water? look people, they are trying to scare you and it is working. the bottom line is mother nature has a way of taking care of itself. when are you all going to learn that everytime you try to stop mother nature it screws it up even more. we should not be wasteful true, but at the same time our resources are here for us to use. This is and has been the land of little rain. life has cycles, things change. these studies are probably done by people who attended the same university as that student, who a few years back, was not aware that is was wrong to take a core sample from a rock in the exact place of the rock, was etched with petroglyphs. its all bull.

  13. Ken Warner May 2, 2015 at 7:46 am #

    “…this year there is a harsh reality staring back: California is in the midst of a four-year drought…”

    IF this is only a four year drought, we are going to be sailing along just fine. It could be a lot worse.

    They found that the megadrought that struck the region in the 1100s and 1200s—which has been tied to the decline of the ancient Pueblo peoples, or Anasazi, of the Colorado Plateau—was likely not as severe as the one expected in the near future.

  14. Philip Anaya May 2, 2015 at 7:05 am #

    Jim Yanotta from the inception of his LA Aqueduct Manager tenure has made the statement ‘We (LADWP) will do what we are required to do”. In this historic fourth year drought maybe the DWP and everyone else in the Valley will need to do a lot more than that, to endure and survive the effects of the drought and the Operation Plan for this run off year. Having a crystal ball for a look into the projected availability of percipitation and snowpack is not assured nor is the prospect of a real “partnership” for the issues of the future of the Owens Valley. An “alternative plan” is a great idea and a “partnership” for the drafting of any plan should be included in that idea .
    The behavior of the DWP management this past week is inexplicable despite this helpful Op Ed . I wish that it could have contained a mea culpa and a stated committment to a “partnership” to stewardship . There is a process in place, (the LTWA) for plenty of partnership opportunities, but DWP deviated from the path with the shocking unilateral notice to Ranchers of the curtailment of Irrigation on May 1. Doing this, the day before the BoS Water Workshop was a horrible step on the path to cooperative efforts to find solutions to the limited resource of water that we all need to sustain life and our gifted lifestyles. A discussion of all issues were to be discussed and provided a step towards partnership but instead there was shock and outrage to the DWP notice.
    It is difficult to have gratitude for the withdrawal of the curtailment of the irrigation water notice to Ranchers and then there is the prospect that this might entail in the future, squamous cell carcinoma for irrigation water. That is a horrific possibility.
    This next week there will both Tech Group and Standing Committee meetings in the Owens Valley that will provide for a renewed opportunity for “Partnership “. I am not certain how the harshest critics of DWP Operations will find a way to engage and trust a partnership especialy after a 100 year cumlative history and the events of this past week but there you are . One ah s–t wipes out 14 attaboys all over again. There are among us some who hold a hidden hope that our attention to the issues of water will someday be resolved with a greater consciousness , cooperation and inclusion with just some plain good common sense stewardship of these lands that provide the waters, inspiration and surround us with realities of the earth . I hope that this conclusion to all these lessons, nature is providing in these days of little water, will become apparent to all, and we can attempt once more to share a path, to solutions, to partnership to protect the lands of the Eastern Sierra. Thank You for this Op Ed Ms. Parsons.

  15. Badfinger39 May 2, 2015 at 6:03 am #

    As long as there is enough water for our Medical Marijuanana plants its all goooood Hahaha

    • Eastern Sierra local May 2, 2015 at 11:38 am #

      Badfinger39 : you are an idiot! Thats not even funny. I state is in a serious drought and all you care about is your marijuana? You’re pathetic. You want your precious palnts to grow? Do us all a favor and move to a different state and take your absurd comments with you.

      • Low-Inyo May 3, 2015 at 1:17 pm #

        Eastern Sierra Local; A typical comment from those that choose to base their entire lives around smoking marijuana (and those around them,usually an unhappy family that puts up with it, or a bunch of lazy, laughing,unemployed bums that smoke with them). Maybe what Badfinger should do is what others did when Colorado legalized..quit their jobs,leave their wives and kids,sell all their belongings and move to Colorado so they can legally smoke pot all day and night,caring about little else.

  16. chris May 1, 2015 at 4:54 pm #

    “Each Annual Operations Plan is calculated using a runoff-year, April 1 through March 31. In order to account for our annual allotment numbers, predictions must be made for the second half of the runoff year, October through March. In our predictions LADWP is forecasting normal winter precipitation levels during the remainder of this runoff year.” I hate to say it, but I think LADWP should prepare an alternative plan NOW based on an abnormal amount of precip this year, i.e., what we had this past year, and notify all users way ahead of time about what that report means in terms of water allotments, Better to know in advance than at the last minute!


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