On the eastern side of California, where the Great Basin desert meets the Sierra Nevada mountains, there exists a land of superlatives: a region of unparalleled grandeur and beauty, a place rich in history and life whose allure attracts millions of visitors annually. However, water diversions and groundwater pumping by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) have inflicted severe damage to the unique valleys in the Eastern Sierra.
Due to LADWP’s excessive pumping and water diversions, entire springs, creeks, and a large lake have disappeared, leaving behind toxic dust clouds and destroyed ecosystems. Groundwater pumping has lowered water tables, killing unique groundwater-dependent vegetation and wildlife.
This damage is the legacy of water wars that started during the turn of the Century: an era of “chicanery, subterfuge … and a strategy of lies,” when William Mulholland and Frederick Eaton schemed to purchase private land and water rights in the Owens Valley.
The conflict over water is far from over. Today, the LADWP, one of the largest utilities in the country, continues its destructive water policies. Through excessive groundwater pumping, litigation, delay, and failure to meet its agreements, the agency continues to unleash damage to the ecosystem and residents of Inyo County, a county with 0.49% of the population of the City of Los Angeles.
Tentatively titled Slake, our video project, which is a collaboration between the Owens Valley Committee and Bristlecone Media, will inspire and educate audiences about the uniqueness of the Eastern Sierra, the effects of LADWP’s destructive water policies and the ongoing struggle for ecological health and environmental justice. Watching the video series will motivate audiences to visit the Eastern Sierra, understand its water conflicts with LADWP, and join in the struggle for its preservation.