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LADWP Newsroom


DATE: April 16, 2013 3:36:27 PM PDT

LADWP Letterhead


The Master Project, When Implemented at a Cost of Between $600 Million and $1 Billion, Will Conserve More than 50,000 Acre Feet of Water Each Year and Provide New Habitats for Owens Lake Wildlife

[Los Angeles CA, April 16, 2013]—The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) today proposed a new Master Project to conserve water and protect the environment in the Owens Valley. For more than a decade LADWP has controlled dust at Owens Lake primarily by flooding the dry lakebed at a cost of more than $1 billion -- a practice which now consumes 95,000 acre feet of water each year. (95,000 acre feet of water is roughly equal to the amount consumed by the entire City of San Francisco in a year.)  The new Master Project, once fully implemented at a cost to LADWP of between $600 million and $1 billion, will save more than 50,000 acre feet of water each year and provide new habitats for Owens Lake wildlife.

“LADWP remains fully committed to its environmental protection efforts in the Owens Valley, but the use of drinking water for dust suppression is no longer environmentally sustainable or economically feasible,” said LADWP General Manager Ron Nichols.  “Fortunately, more environmentally sensitive dust control measures are available and can be utilized at Owens Lake if LADWP receives authorization to apply them. LADWP is proposing this new Master Project to accomplish the goals of saving drinking water and improving Owens Lake bird habitats.”

LADWP’s Master Project, if implemented with the cooperation of state and federal officials, will reduce lake-wide water use by at least 50% and enhance Owens Lake dust control through a mix of tillage, vegetation, water from groundwater sources, gravel, roads to enhance public access, and brine -- while preserving and creating habitat for both wildlife and the public. LADWP said it is prepared to spend an estimated $600 million to $1 billion to implement this Master Project.

“LADWP’s Master Project is based on the work done over the past three years by a diverse group of Owens Valley stakeholders, including state and local agencies, non-governmental organizations, interested citizens, and LADWP as part of the Owens Lake Master Plan process,” continued General Manager Nichols. “LADWP is now presenting the comprehensive Master Project to key parties throughout California, including the federal, state and local officials whose close cooperation will be essential to the Master Project’s review under CEQA and its ultimate implementation.”

The proposed Master Project would be implemented in five phases and would reduce water use to 41 percent of current levels.  Each of the five phases would create additional habitat for important species groups on Owens Lake. By the end of phase five, habitat will be increased across Owens Lake for diving waterbirds, breeding shorebirds, breeding waterfowl, Alkali Meadow, migrating shorebirds, and migrating waterfowl.

The Master Project would utilize these new waterless dust control measures:

  • Brine: Water with very high salinity (similar to that in the existing Owens Lake brine pool) that controls dust while experiencing little to no evaporation.
  • Gravel cover: Shallow covering using locally sourced rock.
  • Non-uniform meandering ridges: Random, curving ridges of lakebed soil proving alcoves of protected playa.
  • Tillage: Low ridges of native soil oriented to allow for positive drainage and provide topographic relief.

“Investment in these waterless and low-water dust mitigation measures is a major financial commitment, but the value of this investment will ultimately be recouped over many years from the reduced inefficient waste of water when other methods work equally well. There will be some cost impacts for our water customers in the next decade or so, but it is a rational long-term solution that will benefit the Owens Valley, the Bay Delta via reduced demands on Northern California water supplies, and ultimately Los Angeles water customers,” noted James McDaniel, Senior Assistant General Manager, responsible for managing the LADWP water system.

LADWP General Manager Ron Nichols concluded: “The decade-long LADWP dust control program has come at a steep price for the environment, as measured by wasted drinking water: More than 50 percent of the drinking water flowing through the L.A. Aqueduct is now diverted to environmental mitigation efforts in the Owens Valley – mitigation that can be achieved with far less water. The effort has also imposed a steep price on the average Los Angeles water consumer, who now devotes 15% of each year’s water bill to Owens Lake dust mitigation (all while nearly 800,000 L.A. residents who receive water from DWP live on incomes below the poverty line). For these reasons, LADWP is asking government officials to recognize that the LADWP’s control of dust on the 45 square miles of lakebed satisfies the City’s obligations under state law.”

A copy of the Owens Lake Master Project can be downloaded in PDF format at:

For more information contact:
Joseph Ramallo
Communications Director, LADWP
(213) 367-1361