RAW: Mammoth, LADWP reach settlement over water rights


The boards of the City of Los Angeles’ Department of Water and Power (LADWP) and Mammoth Community Water District (MCWD) reached a formal settlement this week, ending potentially costly litigation over water.

The agreement assures both LADWP and MCWD of water from Mammoth Creek and the Owens River, while providing funds for collaborative water conservation opportunities in the region, both agencies announced in a news release.

Under the terms of the agreement, MCWD will be able to meet the community’s projected water demands at build-out of 4,387 acre-feet, through surface water diversions, groundwater extractions and recycled water.

In exchange, MCWD agreed to help pay for LADWP to carry out water conservation and efficiency measures in the Mammoth Creek and Owens River watersheds. Overall, nearly 60 percent of the water used by MCWD is already returned to the downstream environment naturally and the conservation efforts will net an additional 1,779 acre-feet of water annually.

The new water conservation efforts will save enough water so that this agreement will not have a negative impact on LADWP’s water customers, according to the news release.

“For more than 60 years, the Mammoth community has depended on water from Mammoth Creek to serve our growing community,” said Tom Smith, President of the Mammoth Community Water District Board.

“This agreement puts to rest any lingering questions about access to the water necessary to serve the vibrant community that prospers here into the future. We want to thank LADWP for working with us to resolve this issue.”

In Los Angeles, the tone was similarly upbeat.

“This agreement is truly a win-win,” said LADWP General Manager Ron Nichols.

“The Mammoth Lakes community is assured of the water it needs to flourish, and the water conservation efforts funded by MCWD will return water to LADWP’s water system , effectively replacing water that would have been used by MCWD.

"LADWP looks forward to working hand-in-hand with MCWD and the people of the Mammoth Lakes community in the years to come to equitably meet our respective communities’ needs.”

Key terms of the agreement, which has now been approved by the Boards of both LADWP and MCWD, include:

  • A payment of $3.4 million now and a payment in  approximately 50 years of $2.4 million, adjusted for inflation, by MCWD to LADWP for use in implementing and maintaining water conservation and water use efficiency actions in the Mammoth Creek and Owen’s Valley watersheds.
  • MCWD’s ability  to continue to divert up to 2,760 acre-feet of water annually from Mammoth Creek and to meet the projected water needs of the community and the local travel and tourism economy at build-out.
  • The establishment of a system that will allow MCWD and LADWP to calculate, and monitor the amount of water being diverted by MCWD and the total consumptive use associated with MCWD’s diversions.
  • The dismissal by LADWP of two pending lawsuits against MCWD: A challenge to MCWD’s final Environmental Impact Report for the Mammoth Creek Fishery Bypass Flows, and a challenge to MCWD’s approval of its 2010 Urban Water Management Plan.

“This agreement shows that it is possible for reasonable parties to come together and reach mutually beneficial arrangements to protect both scarce water supplies and the environment,” Nichols said.

“We are eager to begin our joint work with MCWD to implement this agreement.”

Added Smith:

“We appreciate the rational approach that LADWP took in resolving these matters. Even though this is a minimal amount of water for L.A., it is critical to our community’s future. This agreement is something that works for all of us, while also benefitting the environment and conservation.”