OWENS VALLEY, CA— Los Angeles Department of Water and Power water managers have elected to call off testing of well W385R due to the alarming lack of snowpack and possibility that the eastern Sierra may be slipping back into drought conditions. LADWP had planned to conduct the two-month-long test now through February, but will hold off until conditions hopefully improve next year.
“Right now, we are looking at about a 50 percent of normal snowpack, which is causing us to reduce flows out of Lake Crowley and start refilling important storage there,” said Richard Harasick, Senior Assistant General Manager for the Water System. “One of the critical control variables for the well test is to maintain a constant flow in the Owens River, which we just cannot afford to do without jeopardizing this year’s aqueduct operations.”
The California Department of Water Resources is forecasting below normal snowpack for the year, and calls for water conservation are already ramping up throughout the state.
In 2014, LADWP made significant changes to its old well W385 located in the Five Bridges area of the Owens Valley. The new version, called well W385R, is distinctly different from its predecessor and will draw from deep areas of the aquifer that are hydrologically separate from water that is needed to protect plant growth on the valley floor. Following a shorter pump test in 2014, LADWP set up this winter’s test to further evaluate the operating characteristics of the well and improve the accuracy of groundwater modeling in the region.
This time of year is typically ideal for gathering good test data, when water flow conditions can be kept fairly constant and robust safeguards can put in place to make to ensure that the environment is completely protected. “While we are eager to get this testing underway, we are more committed to getting good, reliable test results and protecting the local environment. Confirming that this well can be operated without adverse impacts is core to what this testing is about,” said Harasick.
The potential operation of well W385R has raised concerns in the Owens Valley, and during the testing delay, LADWP will continue to work with Inyo County and local stakeholders through the processes agreed to in the Long Term Water Agreement.
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