LADWP wants Mammoth’s water


Without Mammoth Creek water, there is no Mammoth Lakes.

Officials of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power denied last year that their philosophy is to get all the water they can get.  The Owens Valley knew that was a thin denial.  Now, so does Mammoth Lakes.  LADWP filed a suit that claims Mammoth Lakes has no water rights to Mammoth Creek, the major town water supply.  The City says it’s all their water.

In a three-page press release DWP claims Mammoth’s water rights are temporary and subordinate to water rights held by the City of Los Angeles.  Mammoth Community Water District Manager Greg Norby disagrees.  He said Mammoth established water rights from Mammoth Creek starting in 1947 through the present.  Norby said the California Water Code does not address “temporary water rights” that LA has used to describe Mammoth’s rights.

LADWP’s attack on Mammoth’s water stems from the completion of a 15-year environmental review of Mammoth Creek flows to protect the downstream fishery.  Mammoth Community Water District worked with Fish and Game and Caltrout to establish flows.  The water board certified the Environmental Impact Report on this issue in early December.  The first week of January, LADWP filed their legal challenge.  Manager Norby said DWP claimed Mammoth has no rights to Mammoth Creek and so can’t determine fishery flows.

Norby said there are state-issued documents that specify Mammoth’s water permits and licenses.  He said DWP’s position is that no rights to surface water in Mammoth Creek should have been granted to Mammoth since LA already had them.  “It’s a little late,” said Norby, “to take that position on our rights developed over 50 years.”

LADWP’s press release says that LA has senior water rights based on the City’s 1905 Owens River water rights filing and the LADWP’s 1967 purchase of Chance Ranch south of Mammoth.  The press release says LADWP is also concerned about Mammoth’s recently-adopted Urban Water Management Plan, which anticipates a 50% growth in water usage in Mammoth Lakes by 2030. If Mammoth grows, LA loses.

Marty Adams, DWP Director of Water Operations, is quoted as saying that taking water for Mammoth deprives LA citizens of their water and causes them to pay higher water rates.

After all of the threats, LA does say they welcome continued discussions with Mammoth Community Water District. Talks over water issues had gone on between Mammoth and LADWP in the past year.  Norby said Mammoth is very much interested in a “non-adversarial resolution.”  He said Mammoth’s Water District tried for over a year and weren’t able to reach agreement with DWP.

Hypothetically, if DWP got all of Mammoth Creek, what would it mean to Mammoth Lakes?  Norby said it would be extremely negative and would take away the town’s only reliable water supply.

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15 Responses to LADWP wants Mammoth’s water

  1. daniel January 9, 2012 at 11:29 am #

    No one in LA drinks tap water anyways. We always buy our water from the grocery store. Only fools drink tap water in LA…. We all know how horrible it tastes. The ironic thing is Crystal Geyser / or Arrowhead mountain spring water is the only water we drink, and I always think that as I drive through Olancha.

  2. daniel January 9, 2012 at 11:27 am #

    LADWP are a bunch of crooks.

  3. Gene January 9, 2012 at 10:40 am #

    Speaking of money: Let’s take a look at the property taxes LADWP pays on their Owens Valley holdings and see if the rates are contemporary.

  4. Greg Newbry January 8, 2012 at 10:32 pm #

    I think we should dress as actors, drive to LA; pay off legistlaters to buy LA land for $2 an acre, pretend we’re there to act; buy, steal, and burn down those that won’t sell us their water rights for almost nothing, then we’ll build a big… pipe and pump their, (now ours), water up to us to plunder, sell and use anyway we want. Drain their lakes, streams and ag lands kill all the trees, shoot the beavers, divert all the creeks into pipes. Now, would that not be down right evil or what? Clearly, no just area would let such travaisties go unanswered or un-recitified; right?

  5. Ken Warner January 8, 2012 at 12:31 pm #

    The lie told at the time was that L.A. would soon run out of water. L.A. at the time had natural, local sources both above and below ground that would have supported well over the 100,000 people that lived in the L.A. area at the time of the construction of the aquaduct. It was a rip off then and remains so today.


    A case in point is William Mulholland, the man who was honored by having a major street in Los Angeles named after him. What did he do to deserve the honor of becoming the namesake for Mulholland Drive? He was an Irish immigrant with minimal formal education who taught himself the craft of engineering and then rose to the top to become superintendent and chief engineer of the Los Angeles water department. In that position he oversaw the construction of the 233-mile Los Angeles Aqueduct, which was finished in 1913 ahead of time and under budget. The aqueduct brought much needed water from the Owens River into Los Angeles. The water was critical to the city’s dreams for the exceptional growth and glory that it enjoys today. Yet deceit and corruption were involved to take away water rights from Owens Valley farmers and other residents who had different plans for the River. Mulholland’s financial backers became rich off of the water bonanza while members of Owens Valley suffered complete financial ruin. Some called it “The rape of Owens Valley.” At the opening ceremony for the aqueduct, Mulholland uttered his most enduring quote, “There it is. Take it.”


    For its first 120 years, the Los Angeles River supplied the town with ample water for homes and farms. It was estimated that the annual flow could have support a town of 250,000 people—if the water had been managed right. But Angelinos were among the most profligate users of water in the world. In the semi-arid climate, they were forever watering their lawns, gardens, orchards, and vineyards. Later on, they would need more to support the growth of commerce and manufacturing. By the beginning of the 20th century, the town realized it would quickly outgrow its river and need new sources of water.

  6. johnjcampnfish January 8, 2012 at 11:07 am #

    Forget it, Jake – It’s Chinatown.

  7. JJ January 8, 2012 at 9:56 am #

    Surprise,surprise! Here the thieves go again. Just because the courts might call it alright, doesn’t make it right.

  8. Jeff B. January 7, 2012 at 10:34 am #

    LADWP is truly evil. Bad for the environment, bad for customers, and agressively over reaching. They will do anything to serve the interests of commercial interests in LA. There’s a reason they are ranked the 13th most hated company in America above even much-loathed BofA (source: Business Insider).

  9. STEVEN January 7, 2012 at 10:31 am #

    LA! Try adopting a population control policy! It is you who are too big! Mammoth Creek is Mammoth! LA! You are not even in our region! Drink sea water! And for Christ sakes, get your population under control!

  10. Rob January 7, 2012 at 8:55 am #

    This issue isn’t about water as much is it is about money. L.A. will always go after the cheapest source first, and that cheap sourse is the Eastern Sierra.

    That will never change.

    • Ken Warner January 7, 2012 at 10:25 am #

      I don’t think it’s about money or water. I think it’s about the LADWP wanting to maintain it’s water hegemony. They simply want to control all the water — or at least appear to control all the water to deter legal challenges.

      The water equivalent of Mammoth Creek could be saved in an hour by shutting down 10 car washes for a hour. Or going to low flush toilets in city hall. This is just another power play by LADWP.

  11. Big Rick O'Brien January 6, 2012 at 9:02 pm #

    What are they gonna do…build ANOTHER aqueduct like they did in 1912 to suck Owens Valley dry ?. If the LADWP would build a desalinization plant & use the never-ending supply of sea water from the Pacific Ocean, they wouldn’t NEED to take water from the eastern sierra, namely Mammoth Creek, which literally, is just a drop in the bucket to them, anyway.

    • Reality Bites March 4, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

      Big Rick, Converting the never ending ocean water to fresh water requires a never ending supply oh energy that does not exist.

      LA will do whatever it takes to get cheap water for their non sustainable city in the desert.

  12. Roy January 6, 2012 at 8:57 pm #

    I will say again what I have said for many years,,, LA you can drink the water in the ocean. For all the money you have spent over the years in various lawsuits, you maybe could have built plants to utilize the oceans water at your doorstep.

  13. kaat January 6, 2012 at 7:18 pm #

    Perhaps Mammoth should have been content not to grow and/or have such grand dreams and plans for growth! I think that is what many who live here have been saying for a long time….don’t grow….and pay attention to how little water we have…we don’t have enough water to support a larger population base….and now….LA may even “take” what little we have for our current small population…wonderful ! (not). Keep fighting against LADWP AND rethink our dreams of growth too! …this low snow year so far should be a wake up call and a big stop-sign for growth!


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