Water Wars in the West

August 02, 2017

LosAngelesAqueductWaterWars (3)
Photographer: Thomas McGuire
Summary Author: Thomas McGuire

Two mantras characterize the management of water in the American Southwest. One is, "Whisky’s fur drinkin’. Water’s fur fightin' over." In fact, water law and negotiations are a major part of economic planning in the Southwest. The other is, "Water flows uphill toward money."

Roman Polanski’s 1974 classic film "Chinatown" was based on a massive land grab about a century ago to divert water from the Owens Valley east of the Sierra Nevada more than 200 miles (320 km) into metropolitan Los Angeles. This devastated Owens Valley farms and caused Owens Lake, a relatively saline body of water about 12-18 miles (19-29 km) across, to become a mostly dry source of wind whipped alkali dust. It is reported to be the largest single source of dust pollution in the United States.

Local farmers were so incensed about losing their water that some used dynamite to vandalize the Owens Valley Los Angeles Aqueduct. The city actually sent guards with machine guns to protect the aqueduct. Today, Los Angeles gets about 1/3 of its municipal water from the eastern front of the Sierra Nevada. This image shows the Los Angeles Aqueduct as it transports snowmelt from the Sierra. Photo taken on May 30, 2017.

Photo Details: Camera: Canon EOS REBEL T5; Lens: EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II; Focal Length: 55.0mm; Aperture: ƒ/10.0; Exposure Time: 0.0031 s (1/320); ISO equiv: 100; Software: Adobe Photoshop Elements 9.0 Macintosh.