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 Water? In 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.