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Volume 2 - Issue 4
Mid-March 2022

'Without Water, We Wither’:
Announcing the Virtual Release of the film

Without Water

by Jamie Della

On World Water Day, March 22 at 6:30 PM, the Keep Long Valley Green (KLVG) Coalition is hosting the FREE virtual premiere of our film, Without Water.

Without Water documents the ongoing dispute between the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP) and various stakeholders in Long Valley, California. Filmed by acclaimed director Jonathan Hyla, Without Water dives into LADWP’s plan to reduce or eliminate irrigation allotments on leased lands in Long and Little Round Valleys - Mono County lands that have been irrigated as far back as when local indigenous tribes were the sole inhabitants of the area. Today, these lands, as well as the ranchers and community members that rely on them, are facing an uncertain future due to the scarcity of water created by climate change and Los Angeles County’s ever growing need for water.

We conducted an interview with Matt McClain, KLVG member and former Executive Director of Mammoth Lakes Recreation (in photo), for an in-depth look into the Without Water film and why it matters.

What is the movie Without Water about? Without Water is about the campaign to save two local wetlands here in the Eastern Sierra: Long Valley and Little Round Valley. These areas, which are stewarded by local leaseholders, are some of the last expansive wetlands in Mono County, and are essential to the economic, environmental, and cultural integrity of our community. The threat comes by way of the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, who are seeking to erase the historical allotment of water to leased lands in Long and Little Round Valleys. This action would profoundly degrade the natural wetlands and open the door for invasive non-native plants to proliferate. This would then result in changes to the landscape, a shift or reduction in the biomass, and an increase in the threat from fire.

What is the main takeaway from Without Water? I believe there are two: First, that the desire or need for water in downstream urban areas cannot come at the expense of upstream communities. Second, the ability for different stakeholder groups to unify and coalesce around issues affecting their communities creates a powerful force that can accomplish great things.

Tell us about the process of getting people to come together to talk about the Eastern Sierra water issue for the movie? The Keep Long Valley Green coalition is composed of a variety of smaller groups and organizations. We have environmental groups working alongside ranchers (something that does not happen very often, if at all!), indigenous tribes, our local land trust, and enthusiast groups all coming together to protect these rare and beautiful valleys. Each group and organization have their own reasons for supporting this campaign, be it economic, environmental, recreational, or cultural. But each group also knows that these interests intersect, and moreover, that the key ingredient in this confluence is water. Without water, we wither.

What is the backstory for Without WaterIn 2019, Wendy Schneider from Friends of the Inyo was approached by Metabolic Studio about making a short film for the Keep Long Valley Green campaign. They put us in touch with director Jonathan Hyla, and we’ve been working together ever since.

Why were you personally driven to create this movie? During my twenty years as a professional grassroots organizer, I’ve helped pull together several film projects for cause-related campaigns; most notably “Momenta” for Protect Our Winters’ PNW Coal Train campaign, and “Martin’s 5” for the Surfrider Foundation’s Free Martins Beach campaign. Both of these film projects were instrumental in helping those organizations raise awareness and support – and ultimately win – these campaigns. 

What experiences led to you join the Keep Long Valley Green Coalition? I originally helped found the KLVG Coalition while I was Executive Director at Mammoth Lakes Recreation. It is my belief that should LADWP be successful in reducing or eliminating the leaseholders’ water allotments, it will greatly impact the landscape of Long and Little Round Valleys. In turn, I believe this will also have an adverse impact on the fishing resources in the area, largely due to a reduction in native biota, including flora, amphibian and invertebrate species. Having grown up vacationing here in the Eastern Sierra, coming in the summertime specifically to fish, this issue is very personal to me.

Tell us about the diversity of the KLVG coalition and how this may finally move the needle with LADWP. Given the scale of impact generated by LADWP’s proposed action, I don’t think that it is surprising that our coalition is comprised of such a diverse array of groups, organizations, and community stakeholders. We have ranchers working in partnership with environmental groups – which I don’t think I’ve ever seen happen before – alongside native tribes, recreational groups, business owners, and even Mono County government. In terms of moving the needle with LADWP, I think the fact that support for KLVG is so widespread and diverse makes it very hard for them to come up here and throw their weight around. It’s no secret that LADWP is the largest municipal agency in the country. Even so, they still need to answer to the Mayor of Los Angeles, not to mention the ratepayers themselves. It looks bad on everyone in Los Angeles when one of their agencies travels 300 miles north and tries to bully a project through, especially when it could have such a devastating effect on the local community. It would be a pretty clear example of them operating in bad faith.

What action do you hope people take after watching Without Water? Our hope is twofold: First, we would like the audience to take ownership of this issue. It doesn’t matter if you live up here in the Eastern Sierra or down in Los Angeles – whether you use this land for fishing, or ranching, or bird watching, or camping…or even if you’ve never visited the area but can appreciate the fact that a beautiful alpine meadow like this exists just a few hours drive from your home – we all have a stake in this and are able to influence the outcome. Second, we would like audience members to use the action alert tool on the Keep Long Valley Green website to express your concerns to the Mayor of Los Angeles, as well as the LADWP Board of Directors. This feedback is tremendously important in providing them perspective on how critical it is to maintain the integrity of this land by maintaining the historical allotments of water to our local lessees, so that they can continue to operate as responsible and effective stewards.



World Water Day: March 22nd 

This exciting virtual event will begin at 6:30 pm with the premiere of Without Water and a Q&A panel will follow. We are excited to announce two confirmed panelists: Without Water Director Jonathan Hyla and Long Valley Rancher Matt Kemp.

This event is FREE but you must RSVP using the orange button below to receive your free ticket, to be followed by instructions for connecting to the premiere at a later time.

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Why do YOU want to Keep Long Valley Green?

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