Los Angeles Department of Water and Power
Owens Valley Watershed
Management Program

The goal of LADWP’s natural resource management is to employ best management practices (BMPs) for land and water uses that maintain water supplies to the city while protecting water quality, habitat, biodiversity, and threatened and endangered species throughout the watershed.  Because LADWP owns most of the bottomland in the Owens Valley, BMPs must also incorporate recreational uses as well as sustainable agriculture.  

LADWP’s natural resource management concept recognizes that the Owens Valley consists of several sub-watersheds (Mono Basin, Upper Owens, Owens Gorge, Middle Owens, Lower Owens, and Owens Lake) that must be managed as a single watershed.  The ecosystem within this watershed is a continuum; not a set of isolated, unrelated parts.  Sub-watersheds are connected ecologically and management actions in one sub-watershed will have effects in adjacent sub-watersheds.

The Department also emphasizes the role people living and working in the Valley play in ecosystem management.  Although the Department is the largest landowner in the Valley, human perception, values, world views, and traditions must be taken into account and incorporated into management goals and plans.

The key to good watershed management is good land use and water management in sub-watersheds.  Land management that prevents soil erosion and promotes vegetation cover protects water quality and minimizes water losses.  Good management of upstream land and water resources prevents water quality and quantity problems downstream.

Since the early 1990s, LADWP has focused on natural resource projects that restore riparian vegetation along the Owens River and tributaries as well as the rehabilitation of degraded or dewatered stream reaches throughout the watershed.  In addition to water quality and water quantity benefits from these projects, plant and animal biodiversity has increased, fish and wildlife have increased with more and improved habitat, there are more acres of wetlands in the watershed then in decades past.  

The overall Owens Valley ecosystem, dysfunctional for many decades because of water diversion, is gradually being restored to a functional ecosystem as river reaches in the Owens Gorge and the Lower Owens River are re-watered.  Management of natural resources within a watershed context also prevents or minimizes conflicts with state and federal agencies and environmental groups over city water supplies because management is seen as holistic and balanced.

LADWP can point to numerous successes in ecosystem restoration throughout the Owens Valley.  The Department, through real-time management experience, is today one of the leading institutions in ecosystem restoration and watershed management.  Research performed by the Department in support of its management has advanced ecosystem restoration science and contributed materially to the understanding of natural processes and ecosystem function at the watershed level.  The approaches and concepts LADWP has developed in the Owens Valley watershed are a model for other watersheds, and, in fact, set the standards against which other watershed projects around the world can be measured.

LADWP’s commitment to improving the Owens Valley watershed has not gone unrecognized.  Through publications in scientific journals, presentations at professional conferences, newspaper articles, television and radio shows, videos, public forums and small focus groups, the renaissance taking place in the Valley is being heard.

Follow the links in the menu at the left to see short summaries that describe some of the Department’s primary projects by sub-watersheds.

Watershed Home Page
Aqueduct Home Page
Contact Us