Water diverted from aqueduct to IWV

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Water diverted from aqueduct to IWVHundreds of acre feet of water have been diverted into the Indian Wells Valley. The lack of storage to capture that water and a deep water table may greatly reduce longterm benefits to our basin.

On Monday, Feb. 27, residents started reporting water surging through Freeman Gulch, located just north of Robber’s Roost. The water appears to be flowing southeast to Little Dixie Wash, where it then follows a northeasterly direction through culverts and gullies to collect on China Lake ranges just west of the SNORT track.

At press time officials of neither the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power nor the Naval Air Weapons Station had responded for requests for comment on the issue. However, local water experts have surmised that abundant precipitation this season in the Sierra Nevada has outpaced LADWP’s capacity for capturing water. Because of dust-mitigation equipment on Owen’s Lake, water is apparently being released in the IWV instead.

Hydrology experts who have witnessed the egress both in person and via video footage estimate the rate of flow into the valley is approximately 1.5 million cubic feet per day — yielding as much as 16.5 cubic feet since the outflow was first observed.

While water is a highly valued commodity in the arid IWV, it is unknown whether the new water will benefit our groundwater table. While groundwater is as shallow as 20 feet below the surface in Owen’s Valley, groundwater is between 175 and 200 feet deep in most places in our basin.

According to experts, that means the water that does not evaporate will trickle down far enough below the surface to benefit root systems, but little will make it far enough to augment our groundwater supply.

In the absence of official comments, the News Review staff sought out public references to any precedent for LADWP diverting water into our basin. The only reference found was a passing comment about a similar release reported by David Williams of the Colorado School of Mines, who wrote a paper based on his studies of the IWV basin in the 1980s.

Additional details will be reported as they become available.

Pictured: LADWP?releases water, at an estimated flow of two acre feet per hour, out of Freeman Gulch near Robber’s Roost. -- Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2017-03-10