Water Commission draws big crowd with grave concerns


Water Director Bob Harrington

The sad truth this year – not enough water to go around for all the needs. The hope remains that agencies and people will get together and agree to share the pain. That was the underlying message when the Inyo Water Commission met Wednesday with around 100 people in the audience to share their fear of not enough water.

Many residents from West Bishop, where wells have gone dry, voiced concern about another dry year and the way Edison and DWP manage water in the Bishop Creek Drainage. That led Water Director Bob Harrington to report on the 1922 Chandler Decree which lays out creek flows between April and September. He said the Decree does not divvy up water below Plant 6 where homeowners complained about a fair distribution of water in West Bishop. He said neither the Bishop Creek Water Association, DWP or the Chandler Decree affect that. The Water Association doles out what water reaches the ditch system.

Former Edison hydrographer Burt Almond once more stood up to say he knew Edison and DWP had agreed with one another in the past to hold back water in the lakes in some years. Debbie Hess of Edison told the crowd that the utility would be willing to come to an agreement with DWP to deviate from the Chandler Decree flow schedule, but something would have to be put in writing. Bob Prendergast of DWP said LA would be willing to talk about reaching an agreement but would not commit to putting it in writing. He also said that with the run-off as it is, DWP will try to fulfill lease obligations, tribal obligations and fish flows in Bishop Creek. He said DWP doesn’t think they can do any more than that.

So the issue of sharing the pain boils down to the two big utilities agreeing to do that. Water Director Harrington said that he tried to hammer home the message that the
soforkbishopcrkdrought, snowpack, absence of water storage in the Bishop lakes all mean we have to be prepared for worse conditions than last year.

Harrington also reported on the West Bishop groundwater tables which do show a sharp drop in the last 8 months. He attributes that to the neighborhood ditches drying up last summer. There is also zero water storage in Lake Sabrina and South Lake right now. He said his is unprecedented in the history of the two lakes.

The dry situation points to the need for DWP and Edison to reach some type of agreement that will at least cause all parties to share the distasteful drought. Inyo County, as Harrington said, can act as facilitators to this type of discussion. The Water Commission will develop a presentation to the Board of Supervisors on this grave issue. Residents fear that more wells will dry up. They also want to make sure they get their fair share, no matter how little there is. The Water Commission will summarize what they heard at their meeting along with the message that there could be a better way to handle the water this year if all parties agree.

Harrington said, “There is just not going to be enough water to go around. The equitable way,” he said, “is for everyone to give a little. Conditions can’t meet everyone’s desires.” Harrington said he hopes the situation motivates Edison and DWP.



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10 Responses to Water Commission draws big crowd with grave concerns

  1. tom jones April 22, 2014 at 9:12 am #

    Southern California Edison did not build the dams. South Lake was formerly Hillside Reservoir built by The Hillside Water Company prior to power development on Bishop Creek. Early on settlers on the Bishop Cone saw that Bishop Creek had dramatic annual patterns and that very little water was available in the winter. Reservoirs were built, as they are around the world in small watersheds, to support settlement year round. The flow pattern we saw last year showed what we would see every year if there were no reservoirs. Reservoir management, especially in prolonged drought cycles, is not easy. LADWP and SCE should be applauded for their efforts.

  2. Wonder April 21, 2014 at 10:38 am #

    If Edeson did not build those dams in the first place for holding water to make power south lake and Sebrina would be at the level they are all the time!!

    • Desert Tortoise April 21, 2014 at 5:11 pm #

      Very true. Today it would be impossible to build these dams at those sites if the existing dams had not already been built.

  3. Bob Brown April 21, 2014 at 10:02 am #

    Both lakes are essentially drained every winter as part of the Sales Agreement. South Lake was drained in the winter of 2010-2011 for the application of a geomembrane liner on the South Lake dam. The reservoir filled and spilled that same year which came in at 141%. Lake Sabrina also filled to capacity. There was also work done on the low level outlet of Lake Sabrina as part of a Federal safety mandate. DWP and SCE agreed to carry over water in 2011-2012 for the first year of the drought. If you start out with a pot of water that has to last three years, and there are demands on that pots drain, the faucet filling it up is not magical…it is mother nature. Those two relatively small reservoirs can only supply water for so long during droughts people.

    • Desert Tortoise April 21, 2014 at 5:10 pm #

      Very good account of events Mr. Brown. Thanks.

  4. Ted April 18, 2014 at 9:48 am #

    Didn’t Edison drain the lakes in the middle of the drought to do dam repair? If so, I hope at least there is some feeling of regret for not postponing the work.

    • Benett Kessler April 18, 2014 at 1:33 pm #

      Yes, they did.

      • Desert Tortoise April 21, 2014 at 7:23 am #

        Wasn’t that back in 2006 when SCE covered the wood facing of Sabrina Dam (a rock fill dam with a wooden upstream face to keep the water from flowing through the rock and undermining the dam) with a geomembrane to stope the dams leakage? Those dams date to the nineteen teens and require a lot of maintenance to keep them safe.


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