"There it is. Take it!" — William Mulholland

On November 5, 1913, William Mulholland dedicated the Owens River as a main water source for L.A.

Since the early 20th Century, the L.A. Aqueduct has sparked fierce controversy between the Owens Valley indigenous communities and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP). Today, the delicate relationship is sustained by mandated conservation and restoration efforts to preserve the watershed and wildlife that depend on it.

(California) Map of the Owens Valley. LADWP is the nation’s largest municipal utility company and owns the entire base of the Owens Valley. Prior to 1905, the LADWP owned no land in the Owens Valley.
Water travels from the Owens Valley intake over foothills, down mountains and across the Mojave Desert to reach this point—L.A. Aqueduct Cascades in the San Fernando Valley.

Owens Valley is the place where the Great Basin meets the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the Western United States.

Paiute and Shoshone Indians irrigated Payahuundadü, "Land of the Flowing Water," long before LADWP took over. The indigenous tribes built intricate ditch systems that brought water to the dry landscape. During the early 1900's, LADWP slowly purchased land in Owens Valley and the community lost their rights to land and water overtime.

"Mono Lake" CEBImagery.com licensed by CC BY-NC 2.0.

Mono Lake is a salt lake located north of Owens Valley. LADWP diverted large amounts of water from Mono Basin streams between 1941 until 1990 causing Mono Lake to drop 45 vertical feet, lose half its volume, and double in salinity.

According to the Mono Lake Committee, "When Mono Lake stands between 6,380 and 6,391 feet on April 1, LADWP can export up to 16,000 acre-feet of water for the year. When the lake stands below 6380 feet on April 1, LADWP can export up to 4,500 acre-feet in a year, and when the lake level is forecast to go below 6377 feet, no exports are allowed." As of May 1, 2020, the lake level is 6,382.7 feet.

Mono Lake reflections. Photo provided by the Mono Lake Committee.

Landscapes in Los Angeles

Due to years of imported water dependence from the Owens Valley and Mono Basin, the City of Los Angeles encourages water-efficient landscapes for its businesses and residences.

LADWP power station in the North Hollywood neighborhood uses a water-tolerant landscape (gravel and rock) for its front lawn.
Water permeable landscape and native plants attract bees and other pollinators, which are essential to life. (Studio City, Calif.)

Find out more about how you can conserve water through LADWP's incentive programs.


By Jourdan Arnaud