California water wars

Last updated

The Los Angeles Aqueduct in the Owens Valley LAAqueductUnlined2.jpg
The Los Angeles Aqueduct in the Owens Valley

The California water wars were a series of political conflicts between the city of Los Angeles and farmers and ranchers in the Owens Valley of Eastern California over water rights.


As Los Angeles expanded during the late 19th century, it began outgrowing its water supply. Fred Eaton, mayor of Los Angeles, realized that water could flow from Owens Valley to Los Angeles via an aqueduct. The aqueduct construction was overseen by William Mulholland and was finished in 1913. The water rights were acquired through political fighting and, as described by one author, "chicanery, subterfuge ... and a strategy of lies". [1] :62 Although, other historians and authors do not hold this to be the most correct description of these actions. [2] [3]

Since 1913, the Owens River had been diverted to Los Angeles, causing the ruin of the valley's economy. By the 1920s, so much water was diverted from the Owens Valley that agriculture became difficult. This led to the farmers trying to destroy the aqueduct in 1924. Los Angeles prevailed and kept the water flowing. By 1926, Owens Lake at the bottom of Owens Valley was completely dry due to water diversion.

The water needs of Los Angeles kept growing. In 1941, Los Angeles diverted water that previously fed Mono Lake, north of Owens Valley, into the aqueduct. Mono Lake's ecosystem for migrating birds was threatened by dropping water levels. Between 1979 and 1994, David Gaines and the Mono Lake Committee engaged in litigation with Los Angeles. The litigation forced Los Angeles to stop diverting water from around Mono Lake, which has started to rise back to a level that can support its ecosystem.

Owens Valley before the water wars

Joseph Reddeford Walker explored the Owens Valley Joseph Walker circa 1860 by Mathew Brady.jpg
Joseph Reddeford Walker explored the Owens Valley

The Paiute natives were the original inhabitants living in the valley, and used irrigation to grow crops. [1] :59

In 1833, Joseph Reddeford Walker led the first known expedition into the central California area that would later be called the Owens Valley. Walker saw that the valley’s soil conditions were inferior to those on the other side of the Sierra Nevada range, and that runoff from the mountains was absorbed into the arid desert ground. [4] After the United States gained control of California in 1848, the first public land survey conducted by A.W. von Schmidt from 1855 to 1856 was an initial step in securing government control of the valley. Von Schmidt reported that the valley’s soil was not good for agriculture except for the land near streams, and incorrectly stated that the "Owens Valley [was] worthless to the White Man." [5] :23

In 1861, Samuel Bishop and other ranchers started to raise cattle on the luxuriant grasses that grew in the Owens Valley. The ranchers came into conflict with the Paiutes over land and water use, and most of the Paiutes were driven away from the valley by the U.S. Army in 1863 during the Owens Valley Indian War. [6]

Many settlers came to the area for the promise of riches from mining. The availability of water from the Owens River made farming and raising livestock attractive. [1] :60 The Homestead Act of 1862 gave pioneers five years to claim and take title of their land for a small filing fee and a charge of $1.25 per acre. The Homestead Act limited the land an individual could own to 160 acres (64.7 ha) in order to create small farms. [7]

The amount of public land settled by the late 1870s and early 1880s was still relatively small.[ citation needed ] The Desert Land Act of 1877 allowed individuals to acquire more area, up to 640 acres (259.0 ha), in hopes of drawing more settlers by giving them enough land to make their settlement and land expenses worthwhile, but "included no residency requirements". [5] :39 By 1866, rapid acquisition of land had begun and by the mid-1890s, most of the land in the Owens Valley had been claimed. The large number of claims made by land speculators hindered the region’s development because speculators would not participate in developing canals and ditches.[ citation needed ]

Before the Los Angeles Aqueduct, most of the 200 miles (320 km) of canals and ditches that constituted the irrigation system in the Owens Valley were in the north, while the southern region of the valley was mostly inhabited by people raising livestock. The irrigation systems created by the ditch companies did not have adequate drainage and as a result oversaturated the soil to the point where crops could not be raised. The irrigation systems also significantly lowered the water level in the Owens Lake, a process that was intensified later by the diversion of water through the Los Angeles Aqueduct. At the start of the 20th century, the northern part of the Owens Valley turned to raising fruit, poultry and dairy.[ citation needed ]

Los Angeles Aqueduct: the beginning of the water wars

Frederick Eaton Fred-Eaton-inoffice.jpg
Frederick Eaton

Frederick Eaton and William Mulholland were two of the more visible principals in the California water wars. They were friends, having worked together in the private Los Angeles Water Company in the 1880s. [8] In 1886, Eaton became City Engineer and Mulholland became superintendent of the Water Company. In 1898, Eaton was elected mayor of Los Angeles, and was instrumental in converting the Water Company to city control in 1902. [8] When the company became the Los Angeles Water Department, Mulholland continued to be superintendent, due to his extensive knowledge of the water system. [8]

Eaton and Mulholland had a vision of a Los Angeles that would become far larger than the Los Angeles of the start of the 20th century. [9] The limiting factor of Los Angeles's growth was water supply. "If you don't get the water, you won't need it," Mulholland famously remarked. [10] Eaton and Mulholland realized that the Owens Valley had a large amount of runoff from the Sierra Nevada, and a gravity-fed aqueduct could deliver the Owens water to Los Angeles. [11] :3

Obtaining water rights 1902–1907

At the start of the 20th century, the United States Bureau of Reclamation, at the time known as the United States Reclamation Service, was planning on building an irrigation system to help the farmers of the Owens Valley, which would block Los Angeles from diverting the water. [9]

From 1902 to 1905, Eaton and Mulholland used underhanded methods to obtain water rights and block the Bureau of Reclamation. [1] :62 [4] [9] [12] :152 The regional engineer of the Bureau, Joseph Lippincott, was a close associate of Eaton, [1] :63 Eaton was a nominal agent for the Bureau through Lippincott, so Eaton had access to inside information about water rights and could recommend actions to the Bureau that would be beneficial to Los Angeles. [1] :64 In return, while Lippincott was employed by the Bureau, he also served as a paid private consultant to Eaton, advising Los Angeles on how to best obtain water rights. [1] :68

To help acquire water rights in 1905, Eaton made high offers to purchase land in Owens Valley. [1] :66 Eaton's eagerness aroused suspicion in a few local Inyo County people. [1] :66 Eaton bought land as a private citizen, hoping to sell it back to Los Angeles at a tidy profit. [13] Eaton claimed in an interview with the Los Angeles Express in 1905 that he turned over all his water rights to the City of Los Angeles without being paid for them, "except that I retained the cattle which I had been compelled to take in making the deals ... and mountain pasture land of no value except for grazing purposes". [14] Eaton moved to the Owens Valley to become a cattle rancher on the land he purchased. [1] :78 Eaton always denied that he acted in a deceptive manner. [13]

Mulholland misled Los Angeles public opinion by dramatically understating the amount of water locally available for Los Angeles's growth. [1] :73 Mulholland also misled residents of the Owens Valley: he indicated that Los Angeles would only use unused flows in the Owens Valley, while planning on using the full water rights to fill the aquifer of the San Fernando Valley. [1] :73

By 1907, Eaton was busy acquiring key water rights and traveling to Washington to meet with advisers of Theodore Roosevelt to convince them that the water of the Owens River would do more good flowing through faucets in Los Angeles than it would if used on Owens Valley fields and orchards. [15]

The dispute over the Owens River water became a political dispute in Washington. Los Angeles needed rights of way across federal land to build the aqueduct. California Senator Frank Flint sponsored a bill to grant the rights of way, but Congressman Sylvester Smith of Inyo County opposed the bill. Smith argued that irrigating Southern California was not more valuable than irrigating Owens Valley. While a compromise was being negotiated, Flint appealed to President Roosevelt. [16] Roosevelt met with Flint, Secretary of the Interior Ethan A. Hitchcock, Bureau of Forests Commissioner Gifford Pinchot, and Director of the Geological Survey Charles D. Walcott. In this meeting, Roosevelt decided in favor of Los Angeles. [16]

Several authors, such as Rolle and Libecap, argue that Los Angeles paid an unfairly low price to the farmers of Owens Valley for their land. [17] :504 Gary Libecap of the University of California, Santa Barbara observed that the price that Los Angeles was willing to pay to other water sources per acre-foot of water was far higher than what the farmers received. [18] :89 Farmers who resisted the pressure from Los Angeles until 1930 received the highest price for their land; most farmers sold their land from 1905 to 1925, and received less than Los Angeles was actually willing to pay. [18] However, the sale of their land brought the farmers substantially more income than if they had kept the land for farming and ranching. [18] :90 None of the sales were made under threat of eminent domain. [19]

The aqueduct was sold to the citizens of Los Angeles as vital to the growth of the city. [9] Unknown to the public, the initial water would be used to irrigate the San Fernando Valley to the north, which was not at the time a part of the city. [1] :74–76 [12] :152 [13] From a hydrological point of view, the San Fernando Valley was ideal: its aquifer could serve as free water storage without evaporation. [1] :73 One obstacle to the irrigation was the Los Angeles City Charter, which prohibited the sale, lease, or other use of the city's water without a two-thirds approval by the voters. [8] :18 This charter limitation would be avoided through the annexation of a large portion of the San Fernando Valley to the city. [8] :133 The annexation would also raise the debt limit of Los Angeles, which allowed the financing of the aqueduct. [1] :74

The San Fernando land syndicate were a group of wealthy investors who bought up large tracts of land in the San Fernando Valley with secret inside information from Eaton. The syndicate included friends of Eaton, such as Harrison Gray Otis and Henry E. Huntington. [9] [13] This syndicate made substantial efforts to support passage of the bond issue that funded the aqueduct. These efforts are reported to have included the dumping of water from Los Angeles reservoirs into the sewers (thereby creating a false drought) and by publishing scare articles in the Los Angeles Times , which Otis published. [8] :185 [12] :152 Remi Nadeau, a historian and author, [1] :102 disputed that water was dumped from reservoirs, because the sewer system may not have been connected to the reservoirs. [20] The syndicate did unify the business community behind the aqueduct, and its purchases were public by the time the vote on the aqueduct was taken. [8] :440

The building and operation of the aqueduct 1908–1928

William Mulholland with a surveyor's scope, ca.1908-1913 Portrait of William Mulholland with a surveyor's scope on a tripod, ca.1908-1913 (CHS-14459).jpg
William Mulholland with a surveyor's scope, ca.1908-1913

From 1907 through 1913, Mulholland directed the building of the aqueduct. [12] The 233-mile (375 km) Los Angeles Aqueduct, inaugurated in November 1913, required more than 2,000 workers and the digging of 164 tunnels. [12] :151–153 Mulholland's granddaughter has stated that the complexity of the project was comparable to the building of the Panama Canal. [21] Water from the Owens River reached a reservoir in the San Fernando Valley on November 5, 1913. [12] At a ceremony that day, Mulholland spoke his famous words about this engineering feat: "There it is. Take it." [12]

After the aqueduct was completed in 1913, the San Fernando investors demanded so much water from the Owens Valley that it started to transform from "The Switzerland of California" into a desert. [12] Mulholland was blocked from obtaining additional water from the Colorado River, so decided to take all available water from the Owens Valley. [1] :89

In 1923, farmers and ranchers formed an irrigation cooperative headed by Wilfred and Mark Watterson, owners of the Inyo County Bank. By exploiting personal bitterness of some of the farmers, Los Angeles managed to acquire some of the key water rights of the cooperative. After these water rights were secured, inflows to Owens Lake were heavily diverted, which caused the lake to dry up by 1924. [22]

By 1924, farmers and ranchers rebelled. [4] A series of provocations by Mulholland were, in turn, followed by corresponding threats from local farmers, and the destruction of Los Angeles property. [1] :93 Finally, a group of armed ranchers seized the Alabama Gates and dynamited part of the system, letting water return to the Owens River. [4]

Dynamite found during sabotage incidents of Owens Valley Aqueduct, circa 1924 OwensVly1924.jpg
Dynamite found during sabotage incidents of Owens Valley Aqueduct, circa 1924

In August 1927, when the conflict was at its height, the Inyo County bank collapsed, which massively undermined valley resistance. An audit revealed that there were shortages in both cash in the vault and amounts shown on the books. The Watterson brothers were indicted for embezzlement, then tried and convicted on thirty-six counts. Since all local business had been transacted through their bank, the closure left merchants and customers with little more than the small amount of money they had on hand. The brothers claimed that the fraud was done for the good of the Owens Valley against Los Angeles, and this excuse was generally believed to be true in Inyo County. [1] :97 The collapse of the bank wiped out the lifetime savings of many people, including payments gained from the sale of homes and ranches to Los Angeles. [23] [24]

In the face of the collapse of resistance and of the Owens Valley economy, the attacks on the aqueduct ceased. The City of Los Angeles sponsored a series of repair and maintenance programs for aqueduct facilities, that stimulated some local employment and the Los Angeles water employees were paid a month in advance to bring some relief. But it was impossible to prevent many businesses from closing their doors. [23] [24]

The City of Los Angeles continued to purchase private land holdings and their water rights to meet the increasing demands. By 1928, Los Angeles owned 90 percent of the water in Owens Valley and agriculture interests in the region were effectively dead. [4]

The second Owens Valley Aqueduct, 1970–present

Terminus of the Second Los Angeles Aqueduct, near Sylmar. Second Los Angeles Aqueduct Cascades, Sylmar.jpg
Terminus of the Second Los Angeles Aqueduct, near Sylmar.

In 1970, LADWP completed a second aqueduct. [8] :539 In 1972, the agency began to divert more surface water and pumped groundwater at the rate of several hundred thousand acre-feet a year (several cubic metres per second). Owens Valley springs and seeps dried and disappeared, and groundwater-dependent vegetation began to die. [4] [25]

Because LADWP had never completed an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) addressing the impacts of groundwater pumping, Inyo County sued Los Angeles under the terms of the California Environmental Quality Act. [25] Los Angeles did not stop pumping groundwater, but submitted a short EIR in 1976 and a second one in 1979, both of which were rejected as inadequate by the courts. [26]

In 1991, Inyo County and the city of Los Angeles signed the Inyo-Los Angeles Long Term Water Agreement, which required that groundwater pumping be managed to avoid significant impacts while providing a reliable water supply for Los Angeles. In 1997, Inyo County, Los Angeles, the Owens Valley Committee, the Sierra Club, and other concerned parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding that specified terms by which the lower Owens River would be re-watered by June 2003 as partial mitigation for damage to the Owens Valley. [27]

In spite of the terms of the Long Term Water Agreement, studies by the Inyo County Water Department from 2003 onward showed that impacts to the valley's groundwater-dependent vegetation, such as alkali meadows, continue. [28] Likewise, Los Angeles did not re-water the lower Owens River by the June 2003 deadline. In December, 2003, LADWP settled a lawsuit brought by California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, the Owens Valley Committee, and the Sierra Club. Under the terms of the settlement, deadlines for the Lower Owens River Project were revised and LADWP was to return water to the lower Owens River by 2005. [29] This deadline was missed, but on December 6, 2006, a ceremony was held at the same site where William Mulholland had ceremonially opened the aqueduct which had closed the flow through the Owens River, to restart it down the 62 miles (100 km) river. David Nahai, president of the L.A. Water and Power Board, countered Mulholland's words from 1913 and said, "There it is ... take it back." [30]

Nevertheless, groundwater pumping continues at a higher rate than the rate at which water recharges the aquifer, resulting in a long-term trend of desertification in the Owens Valley. [31]

Mono Lake

By the 1930s, the water requirements for Los Angeles continued to increase. LADWP started buying water rights in the Mono Basin (the next basin to the north of the Owens Valley). [32] :38 An extension to the aqueduct was built, which included such engineering feats as tunneling through the Mono Craters (an active volcanic field). [33] By 1941, the extension was finished, and water in various creeks (such as Rush Creek) were diverted into the aqueduct. [33] To satisfy California water law, LADWP set up a fish hatchery on Hot Creek, near Mammoth Lakes, California. [33]

Tufa towers in Mono Lake were exposed by water diversions. Mono lake tufa formation.jpg
Tufa towers in Mono Lake were exposed by water diversions.

The diverted creeks had previously fed Mono Lake, an inland body of water with no outlet. Mono Lake served as a vital ecosystem link, where gulls and migratory birds would nest. [34] Because the creeks were diverted, the water level in Mono Lake started to fall, exposing tufa formations. [35] :180 The water became more saline and alkaline, threatening the brine shrimp that lived in the lake. Increases in salinity decreased adult size, growth rates, and brood sizes, and female mortality during their reproductive cycle. [36] Changing levels in salinity as a result of water diversion put this species at risk, as well as the birds that nested on two islands (Negit Island and Paoha Island) in the lake. [35] :91 Falling water levels started making a land bridge to Negit Island, which allowed predators to feed on bird eggs for the first time. [34]

In 1974, David Gaines started to study the biology of Mono Lake. In 1975, while at Stanford, he started to get others interested in the ecosystem of Mono Lake. [37] This led to a 1977 report on the ecosystem of Mono Lake that highlighted dangers caused by the water diversion. In 1978, the Mono Lake Committee was formed to protect Mono Lake. [37] The Committee (and the National Audubon Society) sued LADWP in 1979, arguing that the diversions violated the public trust doctrine, which states that navigable bodies of water must be managed for the benefit of all people. [37] The litigation reached the California Supreme Court by 1983, which ruled in favor of the Committee. [37] Further litigation was initiated in 1984, which claimed that LADWP did not comply with the state fishery protection laws. [38]

Eventually, all of the litigation was adjudicated in 1994, by the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB). [39] The SWRCB hearings lasted for 44 days and were conducted by Board Vice-Chair Marc Del Piero acting as the sole Hearing Officer. [39] In that ruling (SWRCB Decision 1631), the SWRCB established significant public trust protection and eco-system restoration standards, and LADWP was required to release water into Mono Lake to raise the lake level 20 feet (6.1 m) above the then-current level of 25 feet (7.6 m) below the 1941 level. [39] As of 2011, the water level in Mono Lake has risen only 13 feet (4.0 m) of the required 20 feet (6.1 m). [40] Los Angeles made up for the lost water through state-funded conservation and recycling projects. [39]

Central Valley

In February 2014, after three consecutive years of below-normal rainfall, California faced its most severe drought emergency in decades with fish populations in the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta in unprecedented crisis due to the decades of large-scale water exports from Northern California to south of the Delta via state and federal water projects. “Fisheries... people and economic prosperity of northern California are at grave risk", per Bill Jennings, Director of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance [41] Half a million acres of Central Valley farmland supposedly was in danger of going fallow due to drought. On 5 February 2014 the House passed a bill to increase flows from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to the Central Valley, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Emergency Water Delivery Act (H.R. 3964; 113th Congress). This would suspend the very recent efforts to restore the San Joaquin River since 2009, won after 18 years of litigation, with increased releases from the Friant Dam east of Fresno. Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer proposed emergency drought legislation of $300 million aid, and to speed up environmental reviews of water projects, so state and federal officials have "operational flexibility" to move water south, from the delta to San Joaquin Valley farms. [42] [43]

On February 14, 2014, President Barack Obama visited near Fresno and announced $170 million worth of initiatives, with $100 million for ranchers facing livestock losses and $60 million to help food banks. Obama joked about the lengthy and incendiary history of water politics in California, saying, "I'm not going to wade into this. I want to get out alive on Valentine's Day." [44]

Documentaries and fiction

The California water wars were among the subjects discussed in Cadillac Desert , a 1984 nonfiction book by Marc Reisner about land development and water policy in the western United States. The book was made into a four-part documentary of the same name in 1997.

The 1974 film Chinatown was inspired by the California water wars and features a fictionalized version of the conflict as a central plot element.

See also

Related Research Articles

Inyo County, California County in California, United States

Inyo County is a county in the eastern central part of California, located between the Sierra Nevada mountains and the state of Nevada. As of the 2010 census, the population was 18,546. The county seat is Independence.

Bishop, California City in California, United States

Bishop is a city in Inyo County, California, United States. Though Bishop is the only incorporated city and the largest populated place in Inyo County, the county seat is located in Independence. Bishop is located near the northern end of the Owens Valley, at an elevation of 4,150 feet (1,260 m). The town was named after Bishop Creek, flowing out of the Sierra Nevada; the creek was named after Samuel Addison Bishop, a settler in the Owens Valley. Located near numerous tourist attractions, Bishop is a major resort town; the town is a commercial and residential center, while many vacation destinations in the Sierra Nevada are located nearby.

Owens Valley Valley in California, United States

Owens Valley is the now-arid valley of the Owens River in eastern California in the United States, to the east of the Sierra Nevada and west of the White Mountains and Inyo Mountains on the west edge of the Great Basin. The mountain peaks on either side reach above 14,000 feet (4,300 m) in elevation, while the floor of the Owens Valley is about 4,000 feet (1,200 m), making the valley the deepest in the United States. The Sierra Nevada casts the valley in a rain shadow, which makes Owens Valley "the Land of Little Rain." The bed of Owens Lake, now a predominantly dry endorheic alkali flat, sits on the southern end of the valley.

Owens Lake mostly dry lake in the Owens Valley

Owens Lake is a mostly dry lake in the Owens Valley on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada in Inyo County, California. It is about 5 miles (8.0 km) south of Lone Pine, California. Unlike most dry lakes in the Basin and Range Province that have been dry for thousands of years, Owens held significant water until 1913, when much of the Owens River was diverted into the Los Angeles Aqueduct, causing Owens Lake to desiccate by 1926. Today, some of the flow of the river has been restored, and the lake now contains some water. Nevertheless, as of 2013, it is the largest single source of dust pollution in the United States.

William Mulholland engineer and builder of the Los Angeles Aqueduct

William Mulholland was an Irish American civil engineer who was responsible for building the infrastructure to provide a water supply that allowed Los Angeles to grow into the largest city in California. As the head of a predecessor to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Mulholland designed and supervised the building of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, a 233-mile (375 km)-long system to move water from Owens Valley to the San Fernando Valley. The creation and operation of the aqueduct led to the disputes known as the California Water Wars. In March 1928, Mulholland's career came to an end when the St. Francis Dam failed just over 12 hours after he and his assistant gave it a safety inspection.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) is the largest municipal utility in the United States, serving over four million residents. It was founded in 1902 to supply water to residents and businesses in Los Angeles and surrounding communities. In 1917, it started to deliver electricity. It has been involved in a number of controversies and media portrayals over the years, including the 1928 St. Francis Dam failure and the books Water and Power and Cadillac Desert.

Los Angeles Aqueduct canal in Los Angeles County, California, United States of America

The Los Angeles Aqueduct system, comprising the Los Angeles Aqueduct and the Second Los Angeles Aqueduct, is a water conveyance system, built and operated by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. The Owens Valley aqueduct was designed and built by the city's water department, at the time named The Bureau of Los Angeles Aqueduct, under the supervision of the department's Chief Engineer William Mulholland. The system delivers water from the Owens River in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains to Los Angeles, California.

San Joaquin Valley Southern part of the Central Valley in California

The San Joaquin Valley is the area of the Central Valley of the U.S. state of California that lies south of the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta and is drained by the San Joaquin River. It comprises eight counties of Central California. It consists of San Joaquin and Kings counties, most of Stanislaus, Merced, and Fresno counties, and parts of Madera and Tulare counties, along with a majority of Kern County. Although the valley is predominantly rural, it does contain urban centers such as Fresno, Bakersfield, Stockton, Modesto, Turlock, Tulare, Porterville, Visalia, Merced, and Hanford.

Frederick Eaton American mayor

Frederick Eaton, known as Fred Eaton, was a major individual in the transformation and expansion of Los Angeles in the latter 19th century through early 20th century, in California. Eaton was the political mastermind behind the early 20th century Los Angeles Aqueduct project, designed by William Mulholland.

Colorado River Aqueduct water conveyance in Southern California

The Colorado River Aqueduct, or CRA, is a 242 mi (389 km) water conveyance in Southern California in the United States, operated by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD). The aqueduct impounds water from the Colorado River, at Lake Havasu on the California-Arizona border, west across the Mojave and Colorado deserts to the east side of the Santa Ana Mountains. It is one of the primary sources of drinking water for Southern California.

Owens River river in the United States of America in California

The Owens River is a river in eastern California in the United States, approximately 183 miles (295 km) long. It drains into and through the Owens Valley, an arid basin between the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada and the western faces of the Inyo and White Mountains. The river terminates at the endorheic Owens Lake south of Lone Pine, at the bottom of a 2,600 sq mi (6,700 km2) watershed.

Manzanar, California Place in California, United States

Manzanar was a town in Inyo County, California, founded by water engineer and land developer George Chaffey.

Big Pine Creek (California) river in the United States of America

Big Pine Creek is a 12.1-mile-long (19.5 km) stream in Inyo County of eastern California, in the western United States. It flows from the eastern Sierra Nevada down to the Owens Valley, where it is a major tributary of the Owens River near Big Pine.

U.S. Route 395 in California Highway in California

U.S. Route 395 (US 395) is a United States Numbered Highway, stretching from Hesperia, California to the Canadian border in Laurier, Washington. The California portion of US 395 is a 557-mile (896 km) route which traverses from Interstate 15 in Hesperia, north to the Oregon state line in Modoc County near Goose Lake. The route clips into Nevada, serving the cities Carson City and Reno, before returning to California.

Rush Creek (Mono County, California) river in California, United States of America

Rush Creek is a 27.2-mile-long (43.8 km) creek in California on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada, running east and then northeast to Mono Lake. Rush Creek is the largest stream in the Mono Basin, carrying 41% of the total runoff. It was extensively diverted by the Los Angeles Aqueduct system in the twentieth century until California Trout, Inc., the National Audubon Society, and the Mono Lake Committee sued Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) for continuous low flows in Rush Creek to maintain trout populations in good condition, which was ordered by the court in 1985.

Environment of California

The environment of California describes results of human habitation of the State of California.

Water in California Water supply and distribution in the U.S. state of California

California's interconnected water system serves over 30 million people and irrigates over 5,680,000 acres (2,300,000 ha) of farmland. As the world's largest, most productive, and most controversial water system, it manages over 40 million acre feet (49 km3) of water per year.

Owens River course river in United States of America

The Owens River course includes headwaters points near the Upper San Joaquin Watershed, reservoirs and diversion points, and the river's mouth at Owens Lake. The river drains the Crowley Lake Watershed of 1,900 sq mi (4,900 km2) and the north portion of the Owens Lake Watershed of 1,340 sq mi (3,500 km2).


Owensmouth, California was a town founded in 1912 in the Western part of the San Fernando Valley. Owensmouth joined the city of Los Angeles in 1917, and was renamed Canoga Park on March 1, 1931. Owensmouth was named for the 1913 Owens River aqueduct's terminus in current Canoga Park. The town was started by the Los Angeles Suburban Homes Company as part of an extraordinary real estate development in Southern California. Los Angeles Suburban Homes Company was owned by a syndicate of rich Los Angeles investors, developers, and speculators: including Harrison Gray Otis, Harry Chandler, Moses Sherman, Hobart Johnstone Whitley, and others. On April 2, 1915 H. J. Whitley purchased the Suburban Home Company so that he would have complete control for finishing the development. It anticipated possible connections to but was planned independent of the soon to be completed (1913) Los Angeles Aqueduct from the Owens River watershed to the City of Los Angeles through the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles County.The newly built Sherman Way double drive and the Pacific Electric street cars, opened on December 7, 1912, gave new access to the town and to the other new towns in the valley Van Nuys (1911) and Marion ; At the time the new road and streetcar seemed like route to an open agricultural fields at the end of the line — but was a necessity to promote development. Sherman Way was a paved boulevard with lush landscaping and no speed limit where one might get up to 35 mph, there was a separate dirt road for farm wagons/equipment, and telegraph lines.

California's Central Valley subsides when groundwater is pumped faster than underground aquifers can be recharged. The Central Valley has been sinking at differing rates since the 1920s and is estimated to have sunk up to 28 feet. During drought years, the valley is prone to accelerated subsidence. California periodically experiences droughts of varying lengths and severity.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 Reisner, Mark (1993). Cadillac Desert (revised ed.). Penguin USA. ISBN   978-0-14-017824-1.
  2. Mulholland, Catherine (2000). William Mulholland and the Rise of Los Angeles . Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. p. 270-272 320. ISBN   0-520-21724-1.
  3. Nadeau, Remi A. The Water Seekers. New York: Doubleday, 1950. ISBN   0-9627104-5-8
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Smith, Genny; Putnam, Jeff; James, Greg; DeDecker, Mary; Heindel, Jo (1995). Deepest Valley: Guide to Owens Valley, its Roadsides and Mountain Trails. Genny Smith Books. ISBN   978-0-931378-14-0.
  5. 1 2 Sauder, Robert A. (1994). The Lost Frontier: Water Diversion in the Growth and Destruction of Owens Valley Agriculture. Tucson: University of Arizona. ISBN   978-0-8165-1381-9.
  6. Piper, Karen L (2006). Left in the dust: how race and politics created a human and environmental tragedy in L.A. Macmillan. p.  88. ISBN   978-1-4039-6931-6.
  7. Beach, Frederick C; Rines, George E (1904). The Encyclopedia Americana. 13.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Kahrl, WL (1982). Water and Power: The Conflict over Los Angeles' Water Supply in the Owens Valley . University of California Press. ISBN   978-0-520-05068-6.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 "William Mulholland". PBS: New Perspectives on The West. Retrieved October 8, 2011.
  10. McDougal, Dennis (April 25, 2001). Privileged Son: Otis Chandler And The Rise And Fall Of The L.A. Times Dynasty. Da Capo Press. p. 35. ISBN   978-0-306-81161-6.
  11. Davis, ML (1993). Rivers in the Desert. e-reads. ISBN   978-1-58586-137-8.
  12. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Prud'homme, Alex (2011). The Ripple Effect: The Fate of Fresh Water in the Twenty-First Century. Simon and Schuster. ISBN   978-1-4165-3545-4.
  13. 1 2 3 4 Wheeler, Mark (October 2002). "California Scheming". Smithsonian Magazine. Archived from the original on March 15, 2012. Retrieved October 8, 2011.
  14. "Fred Eaton Back From Owens River". Los Angeles Express . August 4, 1905. Archived from the original on December 30, 2006.
  15. "Fred Eaton". PBS: New Perspectives on The West. Retrieved October 8, 2011.
  16. 1 2 "A Hundred or a Thousand Fold More Important". Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Archived from the original on February 23, 2009. Retrieved May 23, 2014.
  17. Rolle, AF (1969). California: A History (second ed.). Crowell. OCLC   4730.
  18. 1 2 3 Libecap, GD (2007). Owens Valley Revisited: A Reassessment of the West's First Great Water Transfer. Stanford University Press. ISBN   978-0-8047-5379-1.
  19. Erie, Steven P. (2006). Beyond Chinatown: The Metropolitan Water District, Growth, and the Environment in Southern California. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press. p. 39. ISBN   978-0-8047-5140-7.
  20. Nadeau, Remi A. (1950). The Water Seekers. New York: Doubleday. p.  34. ISBN   978-0962710452.
  21. Mulholland, Catherine (2000). William Mulholland and the Rise of Los Angeles. University of California Press. ISBN   978-0-520-21724-9.
  22. Forstenzer, Martin (April 10, 1992). "Dust to Dust". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 9, 2011.
  23. 1 2 Nadeau, Remi A (1997). The Water Seekers. Doubleday. ISBN   978-0962710452.
  24. 1 2 "Whoever Brings the Water Brings the People". Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Archived from the original on January 21, 2013. Retrieved December 11, 2012.
  25. 1 2 "Evaluation of the Hydrologic System and Selected Water-Management Alternatives in the Owens Valley, California". Owens Valley Hydrogeology. US Geological Survey. Retrieved October 9, 2011.
  26. "A brief overview: recent Owens Valley water history and OVC". Owens Valley Committee. Archived from the original on August 8, 2011. Retrieved October 9, 2011.
  27. "The 1997 MOU". Inyo County Water Department. Archived from the original on July 17, 2016. Retrieved October 9, 2011.
  28. Manning, SJ (May 26, 2004). "Status of Re-Inventoried Vegetation Parcels According to the Drought Recovery Policy, 2003" (PDF). Inyo County Water Department. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 25, 2012.
  29. Sahagun, Louis; Hymon, Steve (December 17, 2003). "DWP to OK Owens River Water Flow". Los Angeles Times.
  30. "L.A. Returns Water to the Owens Valley". NPR. December 17, 2003.
  31. Manning, S (2013). "Desertification Illustrated". Owens Valley Committee. Archived from the original on September 27, 2011. Retrieved October 9, 2011.
  32. Hart, John (1996). Storm over Mono: the Mono Lake battle and the California water future . University of California Press. ISBN   978-0-520-20121-7.
  33. 1 2 3 "The Mono Basin Project". Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. Archived from the original on March 10, 2014. Retrieved October 10, 2011.
  34. 1 2 Green, Dorothy (2007). Managing water: avoiding crisis in California. University of California Press. p. 34. ISBN   978-0-520-25326-1.
  35. 1 2 Mono Basin Ecosystem Study Committee (1987). The Mono Basin ecosystem: effects of changing lake level. National Academies Press. ISBN   978-0-309-03777-8.
  36. Dana, Gayle (1986). "Effects of increasing salinity on an Artemia population from Mono Lake, California". Oecologia. 68 (3): 428–436. Bibcode:1986Oecol..68..428D. doi:10.1007/BF01036751. PMID   28311791.
  37. 1 2 3 4 "History of the Mono Lake Committee". Mono Lake Committee. Retrieved October 9, 2011.
  38. "Restoration Chronology". Mono Lake Committee. Retrieved October 9, 2011.
  39. 1 2 3 4 "Decision 1631 Background". Mono Basin Clearinghouse. Retrieved October 9, 2011.
  40. "Mono Lake Levels 1850-Present". Mono Basin Clearinghouse. Retrieved October 9, 2011.
  41. Bacher, Daniel (February 7, 2014). "The Emptying of Northern California Reservoirs". Counterpunch. Retrieved February 16, 2014.
  42. Lochhead, Carolyn (February 12, 2014). "Sens. Feinstein, Boxer propose emergency drought legislation". Retrieved February 14, 2014.
  43. Senator Feinstein (2014). "To direct the Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of Commerce, and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency to take actions to provide additional water supplies and disaster assistance to the State of California due to drought, and for other purposes". Retrieved February 22, 2014.
  44. Marinucci, Carla (February 14, 2014). "California drought: Obama wades into water wars in visit". Retrieved February 14, 2014.

Further reading