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.

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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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tim dawson
tim dawson
6 years ago

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
eaststrider
6 years ago
Reply to  tim dawson

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… Read more »

Low-Inyo
Low-Inyo
6 years ago

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

tim dawson
tim dawson
6 years ago

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… Read more »

easystrider
easystrider
6 years ago
Reply to  tim dawson

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

Low-Inyo
Low-Inyo
6 years ago

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… Read more »

tim dawson
tim dawson
6 years ago

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… Read more »

Badfinger39
Badfinger39
6 years ago

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… Read more »

Stever
Stever
6 years ago
Reply to  Badfinger39

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

Low-Inyo
Low-Inyo
6 years ago

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 ?

Rick O'Brien
Rick O'Brien
6 years ago

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… Read more »

Tony Cumia
Tony Cumia
6 years ago

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… Read more »

Low-Inyo
Low-Inyo
6 years ago
Reply to  Tony Cumia

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… Read more »

Charles O. Jones
Charles O. Jones
6 years ago
Reply to  Tony Cumia

+1
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
Dan Watson
6 years ago
Reply to  Tony Cumia

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… Read more »

RandyKeller
RandyKeller
6 years ago
Reply to  Dan Watson

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… Read more »

Okay
Okay
6 years ago
Reply to  Tony Cumia

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.… Read more »

Dan Watson
Dan Watson
6 years ago
Reply to  Okay

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… Read more »

Philip Anaya
Philip Anaya
6 years ago
Reply to  Dan Watson

Didn’t know a thing about reclaimed water in the City of Los Angeles but found this http://lacitysan.org/irp/documents/Recycled_Water_Master_Plan-Identification_of_Potential_Recycled_Water_Use.pdf 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… Read more »

Charles O. Jones
Charles O. Jones
6 years ago

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.

Mark
Mark
6 years ago

Uncharted territory ahead!

biggame
biggame
6 years ago

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… Read more »

Ken Warner
Ken Warner
6 years ago

“…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. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2015/02/150212-megadrought-southwest-water-climate-environment/ They found that the megadrought that struck the… Read more »

Philip Anaya
Philip Anaya
6 years ago

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… Read more »

Badfinger39
Badfinger39
6 years ago

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

Eastern Sierra local
Eastern Sierra local
6 years ago
Reply to  Badfinger39

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… Read more »

Low-Inyo
Low-Inyo
6 years ago

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… Read more »

chris
chris
6 years ago

“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… Read more »