“WITHOUT WATER”: Why The Indian Wells Valley Should Make Friends With The “Friends of the Inyo”

November 17, 2022

Indian Wells Valley, California

Who are the “Friends of the Inyo” and why should the City of Ridgecrest and the Naval Air Weapons Station at China Lake both become members of the Friends of the Inyo?

We’ll attempt to answer these questions in a broader context in the future, but the bottom line is that over 100 years of environmental and economic damage to the Eastern Sierra region of California continues unabated, and it’s getting worse.

That alone should concern us all, and now might be a good time for the State of California, the Department of Water Resources and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to right some of the wrongs from the past.

Owens River to Los Angeles = Drying Out Long Valley and The Indian Wells Valley… (click to enlarge)

Long Valley is north of Bishop California and is known more broadly as the Crowley Lake and Mammoth Lakes area. Most people in Los Angeles don’t know where their water comes from, and they’d be even more surprised to discover that the Long Valley Caldera is one of the largest calderas in the world.

Long Valley Caldera is one of the largest “Supervolcanos” in the world

Yellowstone as a volcanic system may seem unique, with its history of huge explosive eruptions and lava flows. But did you know that there are similar caldera systems spread across the globe? And many of these are far more volcanically active than Yellowstone!

The United States is home to three large caldera systems that have erupted in the last 2 million years. Yellowstone is one, of course. Long Valley caldera, in eastern California near the town of Mammoth Lakes, is also well known.

That caldera formed with a massive eruption 760,000 years ago, and numerous high-silica lava flows have subsequently erupted within and near the caldera. There is also a chain of silicic lava flows and domes that extends north from Long Valley, towards Mono Lake.

The natural underground acquifer winding south from Long Valley to Owens Lake via the Owens River has been depleted by a vast network of pumps and open ditches moving water to the Haiwee Reservoir, just 40 miles north of Ridgecrest. From there, water is transported via the LA Aqueduct over 150 miles south to Los Angeles.

At it’s peak, the LADWP transfers as much as 350,000 acre feet of water per year to Los Angeles from the Eastern Sierra region, and the environmental impact spreads far and wide in the form of dust storms. The great Owens Valley Water Wars of the early 20th century never really ended, and this article from 2012 sets the stage for the continuing battle to save the Eastern Sierra from dewatering, dust and the environmental degradation as a result.

In November (2012), the California Air Resources Board ruled that despite DWP’s grudging release of enough water to wet much of the lakebed, thus controlling dust, just under three square miles of unwetted lakebed still released copious amounts of so-called “PM-10” pollution into the Owens Valley airshed,

Owens Valley Water Wars Heat Up, KCET. Photo: Environmental Protection Agency

We plan to re-introduce the Indian Wells Valley to Inyo County, Lone Pine and Bishop, while giving the water “authorities” something to think about. In the meantime, please take 15 minutes to watch “Without Water”, which has now been released as a warning that the LADWP continues to dry-out the Owens Valley as well as Long Valley, and in a future post we’ll show you that the dust problem from Owens Lake has not been resolved.

The video below is 21 minutes long and was produced by the “Friends of the Inyo”. We should all become their friends:

“Without Water” – Keep Long Valley Green

“Without Water” – Keep Long Valley Green


Our mission is to ensure the public lands of the Eastern Sierra exist in an intact, healthy natural state for people and wildlife through preservation, stewardship, exploration, and education.


Founded in 1986, FOI was originally organized to comment on the Inyo National Forest forest planning process. Since then, FOI has evolved into its current form working on a broad range of public land issues that impact Inyo and Mono Counties.

In 2018, The Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP) decided to de-water Long and Little Round Valleys, CA. The LADWP notified leaseholders in that it would be eliminating their irrigation allotments. This water not only helps to support local pasture, it also plays a critical role in maintaining wetland and meadow habitat – much of which were lost in 1941 when LADWP built the Long Valley Dam and created Crowley Lake.

Join us in demanding that LADWP provide a sufficient, binding water supply each year to keep these valleys green, with a healthy environment and a sustainable economy!

For additional Information on the geography of the Eastern Sierra please see: