Water is Key

Water is the lifeblood of the Eastern Sierra. In fact, the Paiute-Shoshone Indigenous people call the region Payahüünadü – “the land of flowing water.” Snowmelt from the mountains sustains beautiful creeks and wetland meadows that are rich in biodiversity.


Snowmelt from the mountains sustains beautiful creeks and wetland meadows that are rich in biodiversity. Long Valley and Little Round Valley are home to a variety of fish, invertebrate, amphibian, and avian life. The area is critical habitat for the native Bi-State Sage Grouse, a species of special concern whose population is already in precipitous decline. LADWP has issued an adaptive management plan for the sage grouse on its holdings in Long Valley and claims that it will ensure water supply for the environment and sage grouse, but these are not binding commitments.

“Clearly, if you would look at the value of that water, if we were buying it ... it's not a good business deal. But if you look at it from the mitigation, and the fact that the cattle industry is a significant part of the Inyo economy, plus alfalfa and pasture lands are part of the environment and habitat, it's part of our responsibility. ”

James WickserLADWP Assistant General Manager (retired)

Economy and Recreation

With enough water, the twin pillars of southern Mono County’s economy – ranching and recreational tourism – can thrive. The ranches are not leased and managed by small families that have stewarded the lands for generations. They can withstand natural variations in precipitation but not a complete, permanent loss of irrigation water. Tourism, meanwhile, is driven by the area’s beauty and outdoor recreational opportunities. People come from all over the world to hike, fish, bike, ride OHVs, and camp, in the process supporting local guides, lodging, restaurants, and other services. As with ranching, water is essential to the recreation economy. For example, the wetlands support the area’s world-class fly fishing; they produce more bugs for the fish to eat, and the irrigation channels act as nurseries for the fry. Healthy meadows also sequester carbon, helping to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Ecological Risks in Long Valley

LADWP claims that the end of irrigation water would lead to a restoration of native vegetation adapted to dry conditions. However, the soils have changed from decades of irrigation, and the seeds of earlier plants would most likely be unviable. Suddenly withdrawing water would therefore bring invasive weeds like cheatgrass and thistle. But there is more at stake than “just” the scenic green meadows and useful pasture land becoming parched, brown, and full of invasive weeds, more than “just” wreaking havoc on both pillars of the local economy. The dried-up land would also be ripe for wildfires, which have already occurred on small scales in recent years. And similar to what happened in the Owens Valley after LADWP drained Owens Lake decades ago, dust would pose a significant health hazard to local residents. The court-mandated perpetual remediation of Owens Lake has already cost over $1 billion, borne by L.A. ratepayers. Ultimately, it would end up being far more expensive for those same ratepayers to mitigate the damage of creating a dustbowl in Long Valley than to avoid the dewatering option in the first place – all over a relatively tiny volume for the city that could easily be made up for through urban water conservation.


May 4, 2021 in Comment Letters, Wildlife

Mono County Responds to LADWP Sage Grouse “Plan”

      This recent letter released by the Mono County Board of Supervisors reinforces the Coalition's concerns that LADWP's plan and actions on the…
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Dive in: History, coalition goals, and impact of water on the Long Valley

Water’s Role in Long Valley’s Wildlife, Economy, & Recreation

The Paiute-Shoshone Indigenous people call the region Payahüünadü – “the land of flowing water” – and consider it sacred. Mountain snowmelt sustains beautiful creeks and wetland meadows rich in biodiversity…

Recent History of Long Valley’s Water 

Follow the timeline of LA’s actions in the Eastern Sierra from 1905 to the current day. From undercover representatives consolidating water rights,  to destruction of the the original meadows, and recent attempts to dewater the entire valley…

Coalition Goals for Long Term Water Partnership

Our overriding goal is simple: for LADWP to provide a binding yearly water supply (adjusted for precipitation) for Long Valley and Little Round Valley, at a certain date each year…  

Quote Citation:

Wickser, James. 1998. An Interview with James F. Wickser Retired Assistant General Manager – Water Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, February 9, 1998 at Glassell Park, California. Interviewed by Dick Nelson. 125 pgs. Accessed on June 1, 2020: WaterandPower.org

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