Well driller comments on West Bishop

wellrigAs we have reported, the groundwater table has dropped below a half dozen or so homeowners’ wells in West Bishop and one community well. With what appears to be ongoing drought, concerns have heightened. Some wonder if the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has pumped too much or if management of Bishop Creek drainage waters led to a lower West Bishop groundwater. One well driller, who is currently at work on new wells in West Bishop, offers his views.

When contacted about wells he is drilling deeper in West Bishop, Russell Kile, owner of Maranatha Drilling, said overall there is a general trend of a declining water table which has dropped, he said, over many years. Kile said he believes it was accelerated this year due to a lack of surface water.

Kile said a lot of the wells in trouble have had problems for a number of years. Asked if DWP pumping over time may have caused the issues, Kile said DWP has not changed its pattern. He named one of DWP’s favorite excuses for pumping – watering the Lower Owens River and dust on the Owens Dry Lake.

Kile gave DWP credit for lowering the groundwater thirty feet or so. He said the groundwater used to sit at nearly ground level. Now, he said, DWP should get good marks for lowering the groundwater and improving water quality.

What about the fact that the roots of plants don’t go down 30 feet? Kile said where people want plants they can put them in and water them. As for the West Bishop homes no longer able to get water, Kile said their wells will be drilled down to 150 feet. He said the State of California is helping small water companies like one in West Bishop.

Kile did point to the Hillside Decree, won by local families in 1940, which bans DWP from export of groundwater in the Bishop area. LA can pump water but must use it on their lands in what is called the Bishop Cone. Under the Long Term Water Agreement, DWP is supposed to conduct an annual audit of Bishop Cone pumping.

Stan Matlick, whose family won the Hillside Decree, passed away last spring but consistently maintained that he believed LA was exporting groundwater that was co-mingled with other water in the complex canals and channels in the Bishop area.

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16 Responses to Well driller comments on West Bishop

  1. William I. Nicholson May 26, 2018 at 12:33 am #


    Great Post!

    Today, water well drilling is something faced by most home builders, but can also be part of a home renovation process.

    Once the homeowner and the well drilling company have determined the best location for the new well, water can be delivered to the home in as little as one day, though in some cases it may take up to four days.

    Water well drillers recommend testing for bacteria once a year for the life of the well. Homeowners are also advised to test the water if there are any sudden changes is water color or taste.

    Thanks for sharing this informative post with us.

    William I. Nicholson

  2. MJA January 2, 2014 at 9:56 am #

    Some water ?s
    Does DWP reduce its ground water pumping in years of drought? Does DWP ever enforce water restrictions in LA like those being done in Mammoth? If there is no snow this year will water continue to be exported from the Owens Valley? If so, where will that water come from? If not, when will the pumping stop? Full stop. Thanks, = .

    • The Waterboy January 3, 2014 at 9:46 am #

      LADWP will drain Owen’s Valley of it’s last drop regardless of the current drought. It’s not about water, it’s about money, and the Owen’s Valley is LADWP’s cheapest water source. They will take advantage of it until it’s gone. You can bank on it.

  3. JeremiahJoseph January 2, 2014 at 8:54 am #

    How is it still a debate that LADWP’s influence in the valley has nothing to do with depleting plant life and lowering water table? Bishop cone or not, it’s not like the negative effects only stay by the well head.
    We know the water is being pumped at unprecedented levels with less recharge due to concreted and piped canals, straight rather then meandering streams, and not to mention the 10 year drought we have been in…
    The well driller noticed the table has dropped, and we can see how those with bias or PRO LADWP arguments will try to counter the report.
    Why is it that the skeptics don’t need much proof to be skeptic?

  4. The Waterboy January 1, 2014 at 3:13 pm #

    “I have a hard time understanding why Mr. Kile was interviewed or considered an “expert.”

    Expert is the wrong word to use. We all think we are expert skiers, and it’s debatable after watching us ski, but few of us are pro’s.

    I have the upmost faith in my well drillers. Mr. Kile is better then an expert. He is a professional with 40 years of experience. A man who if he didn’t know what he was doing would never have survived 40 years in the well drilling business.

  5. Joe December 31, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

    I think Bob Harrington at the Water Department would be qualified to answer the questions more than Mr. Kile. I agree with HG that many of Mr. Kile’s statements make no sense. I would also like to know how the ICWD and Harrington is overseeing the DWP Bishop cone export records and what is being discovered if anything.

    • Benett Kessler December 31, 2013 at 5:25 pm #

      We did quote Harrington in the first story done on the dried up wells. Mr. Kile is the well drilling owner at work to drill new wells for the West Bishop homes. He’s been drilling wells here for 40 years. He’s qualified to comment. His comments are his views of things. Make of them what you will. We will continue to reveal all aspects of this story.
      Benett Kessler

      • Joe January 1, 2014 at 8:04 am #

        For the sake of accuracy I did not say Kile was not qualified but rather Harrington was more qualified. Harrington could certainly validate Kile’s claims as a additional source. Neither article addresses the issue about how ICWD is overseeing the Bishop Cone export.

        • Philip Anaya January 3, 2014 at 7:55 am #

          The Inyo County Water Dept. authors the annual Bishop Cone Audit. Here is the link to the 2011-12 Audit.
          From what I have learned over the years is that DWP provides the statistics. The Hillside Decree is supposed to restrict pumping (Extraction) water for export to Los Angeles but extraction activities ( Pumping wells and free flow wells) are allowed for the water use on DWP owned lands in the Cone.
          In this audit you will see some graphs that show usage and extraction numbers . Those are the numbers that DWP sends to the ICWD for the annual report. Those numbers are not certified by the ICWD. DWP does meter the usage to it’s lease holders with A tube weirs that are accurate and does meter the pumping wells. The free flow wells however are not metered or even Identified in the field. The condition of these V notched weirs was suspect until this past year when complaints led to some maintenance. The free flow wells need to be metered with the same devices as the Usage weirs as there is a need for accuracy. No one should accuse the DWP of dishonest data but no one should trust estimations no matter how expert when it comes to the Audit of the Bishop Cone. After all it is a court ordered Decree and it is called an Audit. The ICWD could have a meter reader of it’s own and then the figures that DWP now supplies could be ascertained.
          If you do a field trip of the wells in the cone you will see that they go directly into the Bishop Canal or some major ditch that feeds into the Canal. The free flow wells go short distances right into the Lower Owens River. The Usage numbers do come from A tube weirs connected to the Bishop Canal and also from the ditch system of West Bishop . The co mingling of waters is confusing and the areas especially around the northerly situated wells are damaged and dry. As with the Bishop Creek Drainage Basin better management with an eye on conservation of the resource as a primary consideration should be the rule. That is what was the intention and the purpose of the Hillside Decree, not the lowering of the water table and the need for folks to be drilling expensive new wells.
          I’d love the ICWD to have an enforcement officer who could turn wells on and off, enforce compliance with agreements and court ordered judgments. I wonder if DWP would trust the ICWD to read the meters and rely on those figures for it’s reports and operations.

          • JeremiahJoseph January 3, 2014 at 11:12 am #

            Nice work Philip.
            Definitely a need for accuracy!

  6. Steve December 31, 2013 at 2:27 pm #

    Could it be that 100 years of collecting all the runoff water and pumping all DWP can get into their aqueduct is the reason why valley wells are running dry? If the 700 acre feet per year that DWP sends down their aqueduct was still in the valley for those 100 years I think we would still have good wells.

    But in the end of the year news San Francisco only got just over 2 inches of rain in 2013. The lowest ever recorded since 1849 when rain fall records were started. This will make getting water from the Sacramento delta in short supply. So you can bet DWP is going to lean on Owens Valley to make up for the loss.

    So hold on to your dry dusty britches it is going to get tough.

    • Benett Kessler December 31, 2013 at 3:48 pm #

      Just a quick point. According to the Inyo Water Department, the capacity of the original aqueduct is 480 cfs or roughly 300,000 acre feet per year. The second aqueduct capacity – 300 cfs or 200,000 acre feet per year.

  7. Happy Gilmore December 31, 2013 at 12:33 pm #

    I have a hard time understanding why Mr. Kile was interviewed or considered an “expert.” His comments make little to no sense and it appears he wants to forward some agenda he has. Why would lowering the ground table improve water quality? It’s a nonsequitar. Why would a lack of surface water lower the ground water table? A lack of surface water where? in Bishop Creek in the canals, overland flow?
    “He named one of DWP’s favorite excuses for pumping – watering the Lower Owens River and dust on the Owens Dry Lake.” Again what does the previous statement from Mr. Kile have to do with West Bishop? What agenda is he trying to promote? H seems to be implying that DWP has to pump water to complete these projects and he doesn’t like it (I don’t know EXACTLY what he’s getting at)

    In the end this is very poor reporting with no follow up questions or clarifications and no interviews with someone who actually might be knowledge on the subject.

    • Benett Kessler December 31, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

      I failed to make it clear that Kile’s company is the one drilling the new wells in West Bishop. I have now added that info in the lead. As for his quotes, these were his responses to my questions. We are trying to find out what has happened to dry up some wells in the West Bishop area. He is one of the people involved.
      Benett Kessler

    • Steve December 31, 2013 at 2:13 pm #

      Happy, the lowering of the ground water would make for better quality. Because the dog crap in the back yard is no longer in contact with the water table.

    • Philip Anaya December 31, 2013 at 6:10 pm #

      HG ,
      I’m guessing that you are happy because you aren’t spending $ 20,000.00 on a new well. Since you are having a hard time understanding things I could refer you to all sorts of difficult and easy to understand stats but I’m guessing that you might not be happy after an examination of the historical pumping stats for instance in DWP’s Urban Water Management Plan 2010 pages 109 -119. Google it.
      Mr. Kile is an expert. He doesn’t just bore holes into the earth hoping to strike it rich. He is in the business to provide life, domestic water for the homes of individuals who will then be able to tap into and share the Aquifer with their neighbors. His knowledge comes from his education and long term experience and most certainly his ability to daily more deeply understand the earth and the waters and evolve that wisdom into the following day. Quite possibly he’s been drilling wells way before you or I were a gleam in our Mother’s eyes.
      Shallow wells have a greater chance of surface contamination from what I’ve been told. Lowering the water table, as much as I dislike that idea, benefits the quality of the water for domestic use at the same time it eliminates soil water in the rooting zone for the native vegetation. I’m thinking that there is filtration through the layers of soils .It can happen horizontally but with gravity, filtration has to be a vertical mechanism
      The surface water below SCE Plant #6 of Bishop Creek is an important flow to recharge the Aquifer in the West Bishop area. Much of Bishop Creek flows through the large pipelines that you can see as you drive up the Canyon (penstocks from Plant #1 to #2 etc all the way down to Plant #6, a bit below the College. The Creek is braided and dispersed through the ditches,the lease holders,homeowners flood their lands and there is infiltration into the Aquifer. It is not a coincidence that this past year the ditches are dry and that there is an increase in new wells in the West Bishop Area.
      There is a historic management practice in the Bishop Creek drainage basin that has allowed for some kind of equilibrium between the water table, the ditches, runoff allowed to be stored in South and Sabrina lakes that has not led to this current difficulty of wells no longer producing water in West Bishop. Edison has the hands on control of water release from the Lakes, but DWP has the water right ( according to the Chandler Decree and controls the decision of the flows ,of the releases from the Lakes . There are serious environmental and economic consequences from the management decisions and there is a third year of drought that appears to be on the horizon. HG , We need all the opinions and expertise of the professionals in the field and we need the DWP to take the lead and initiate a cooperative management plan with input from Edison, the Inyo County BoS and Water Dept., the City of Bishop, The Bishop Chamber, Calif. Dept of Fish and Wildlife , The Inyo National Forest, The Bishop Paiute Tribal Council, The Bishop Creek Water Ass. the Owens Valley Committee, Agencies and Groups who have an interest and every individual who can offer an idea or resolution to these issues. The shallow wells that are being affected are the canary in the coal mine .
      The Wave talks about the Croc. Well don’t forget that there was one famous Croc that had the tick tock clock within him and that clock has never stopped into literary history The fish in the stream never stop swimming until the end of their time, the very last stroke of their fins and tail or until the stream or the Lake goes dry, emptied once again for the benefit of mankind.


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