Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Dishonorable Discharge

The class I teach is learning all about rivers, floods, and groundwater this week. This subject is important to learn about, especially for folks living in Los Angeles. I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but it doesn’t exactly rain all that much in LA, which is good because people turn into Road Retards as soon as the pavement is wet. But it’s also bad in that we have a population of 14 million that is sustained on imported water.

As anybody who has seen Chinatown should know, Angelinos are big, fat, greedy water thieves. Back in early part of the century the LADWP and specifically chief engineer William Mulholland planned a fantastically devious way to reroute water from up north in order to provide water to the booming population in LA. People affiliated with the DWP started buying up land in the area of Owens Valley (see map) and before you know it, the LADWP owned a shit-load of land with precious precious water on it.

^ Area of Water Stealing ^

There are now two aqueducts that pilfer water from up North. The original built in 1913 runs about 220 miles and the other, completed in 1970 runs 137 miles.

^ Crazy-ass Aqueducts ^

You gotta hand it to Mulholland for being ballsy enough to make this insane plan a reality. Had I grown up in or around OwensValley AND been subjected to the vast wind storms created by the drying of the lake bed AND thereby developed severe respiratory problems because of all the particulates in the air AND had my family’s farm get fucked out of their water rights, then I would absolutely despise the man and probably all Angelinos. OwensValley is now as dry as a bone. Recently Mayor Villaraigosa made a big to-doo about rerouting water back into the OwensValley. You can read all about it here:

As most things Mayors do, this flashy production is merely a matter of publicity and won’t really do much to restore OwensValley to what it was at the turn of the century.

But our story gets better! Not only do we jack water from Northern California, we also reroute water from the Colorado River (see below). LA gets about half its water from the LA Aqueduct system and about 40% from the Colorado River and State Water Project, um, projects. Only about 10% of the water we use comes from groundwater and surface runoff.

By rerouting water for our own consumption, we’ve now fucked over Baja Mexico for their part of the Colorado River. Where there used to be lush estuaries and wetlands are now desiccant.

Fascinating stuff, huh? Who knew that water could be so scandalous.

So the next time you are taking a shower or drinking a cool glass from the tap (god forbid!) or participating in a wet tee-shirt contest, be mindful of where your water has come from. It has been on a long an arduous journey and deserves your respect.

Figure references:
CO Aqueduct: (Colorado River Aqueduct © 2004 Matthew Trump
LA Aqueduct:
OwensValley: Owens Valley © 2004 Matthew Trump

1 comment:

Tara Armov said...