Los Angeles and Mammoth Lakes said Thursday they have ended a lengthy legal battle over water rights in the eastern Sierra.
Mammoth Lakes says Mammoth Creek is its lifeblood. But it also feeds into the Owens River, which pours into L.A.'s aquaduct. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has argued that its water rights were superior, and that Mammoth's use of the creek interfered with L.A.'s supply.
The DWP and Mammoth are calling the settlement a win-win. Mammoth retains the right to use the amount of water it does now, and will maintain rights to the water it anticipates using well into the century.
In exchange, the Mammoth Community Water District will pay the DWP $3.4 million to set up water conservation and efficiency projects around the creek and the Owens Valley, and make another payment of several million dollars in about 40 years.
DWP officials say the settlement won’t reduce the amount of water L.A. gets from Mammoth. Officials from Mammoth's water district point out that about 60% of what the town uses is returned to the downstream environment naturally. Conservation efforts paid for by the settlement may yield about 1,779 acre-feet of water annually. Consequently, in the short run, the eastern Sierra may yield more water for L.A.
The DWP has been aggressively asserting its rights in the eastern Sierra in recent years as water has gotten more scarce. Late last month Los Angeles settled a dispute with the Great Basin Air Pollution Control District over dust controls on the lakebed, a multi-faceted legal battle driven by concerns over water use. Last year, the DWP's Marty Adams told KPCC about the agency's efforts to crack down on water theft in the region.