By Jamie Della
We all win when we save water, whether in the Eastern Sierra with water restrictions in our local communities, or in Los Angeles where efforts to conserve water have surpassed the experts’ predictions.
Kudos to Angelenos, who, thanks to water conservation measures, have achieved the Sustainability pLAn 2035 goal of reducing Los Angeles’ water usage by 25%, a target of 100 gallons per capita daily (GPCD). This reduction of potable water consumption by a quarter, nearly 15 years ahead of schedule, is of dire importance as Los Angeles and all of California once again face critical drought conditions. Every drop of conserved water means that existing water supplies can be stretched that much further, providing greater sustainability and water reliability as our communities adapt to climate change.
The Eastern Sierra is the playground for southern Californians who want to experience bluebird skies, fresh air tinged with the scent of pine. We are gaining momentum on learning how to work together with water, our most valuable resource.
This chart is from an April 13, 2021 comment letter submitted to the L.A. Dept. of Water & Power on the Draft 2020 Urban Water Management Plan by the Mono Lake Committee, Mono Lake Kutzadika'a Tribe, Friends of the Inyo, and more than a dozen other signatories. An electronic (pdf) version of the entire letter can be accessed here.
Sharing Conservation Dividends
Recently, the Department of Water and Power (DWP) sent an urgent message to Los Angeles ratepayers to once again rise to the call and help conserve water because Angelenos have proven their success. In fact, the city of Los Angeles is better prepared for drought than it was before 2014 by using less water (potable and recycled combined) than it did 50 years ago, even with the city’s population growing by more than 1.2 million people during that period.
The Eastern Sierra and Los Angeles share the same water resource that begins in the land of Payahuunadu. Our water savings, these conservation dividends, should be equally shared.
According to DWP's own data, as set forth recently in its latest Urban Water Management Plan, largely as a result of DWP’s successful conservation efforts, it could serve the needs of its ratepayers and significantly reduce the amount of water it extracts from the Eastern Sierra.
In a recent issue of The Los Angeles Times, Pulitzer Prize winning Staff Writer Louis Sahagun highlights the Keep Long Valley Green coalition’s request to share surplus water from conservation by the City of Los Angeles’ programs. Mr. Sahagun notes harmful impacts following DWPs water diversions: “By the late 1970s, tributary streams had dried up, dropping the lake level more than 40 feet and doubling the water’s salinity. What followed were smelly salt flats and choking dust storms.”
The article goes on to highlight the current fight to share the conservation dividends, which are many, thanks to “strategies including stormwater capture, groundwater replenishment, recycling, low-flow toilets and $2 billion worth of court-ordered dust control projects at dry Owens Lake, about 140 miles to the south [of Mono Lake].”