Water Wars: Court Case to Decide Fate of Long Valley in Rural Mono County
Tuesday, May 17, 2022
Conservation groups are speaking out in support of water rights in rural Mono County, saying thirsty Los Angeles is endangering wildlife, ranching and tourism.
All parties are awaiting the judge's decision after a recent hearing, where the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) argued it has the right to cut off water ranchers use to irrigate Long Valley and Little Round Valley for cattle grazing near the Crowley Lake Reservoir.
Wendy Schneider, executive director of the nonprofit Friends of the Inyo, said the DWP bought up water rights 100 years ago, but the Eastern Sierra is getting the short end of the stick.
"We want people to have water to drink and to cook with and to bathe in," Schneider acknowledged. "But when our ecosystem is being devastated, so that we can do landscaping for nonnative thirsty plants down south, that does not make sense."
The drought, exacerbated by climate change, has forced big changes. Last week, the DWP ordered cuts on outdoor watering from three days a week to two.
The Sierra Club and Mono County filed the lawsuit in 2018 when the cutbacks were first announced. They argued the green meadow in Long Valley supports the sage grouse and fish populations, which boosts tourism as well.
Schneider wants to see the DWP expand a program in Burbank to capture stormwater, instead of letting it flow into the ocean.
"I think we can get to a place where the Eastern Sierra is still supplying some water to supplement," Schneider pointed out. "But there will be much less reliance on it. We need more of our water up here, not less of it, and we need Los Angeles to help us."
Advocates would also like to see a large expansion of programs to recycle water in the Southland.
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