L.A. May Store Water Under an Owens Valley Lake It Drained to Fill the Aqueduct

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The setting sun casts shadows of Mt. Whitney across Owens Lake near Lone Pine in Inyo County. Climate change is forcing Los Angeles to consider banking some of the Sierra Nevada snowmelt under dry Owens Lake.(Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

The setting sun casts shadows of Mt. Whitney across Owens Lake near Lone Pine in Inyo County. Climate change is forcing Los Angeles to consider banking some of the Sierra Nevada snowmelt under dry Owens Lake.(Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Quick shifts in climate have prompted Los Angeles to consider an unlikely place to bank some of its Sierra Nevada snowmelt: beneath dry Owens Lake, which the city drained starting in 1913 to fill the L.A. Aqueduct and supply a thirsty metropolis.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has launched studies of ambitious plans to store water in the lake’s underground aquifer so that it could be pumped up in summer months and drought years to create pools of water to limit the dust sweeping across the vast lakebed’s salt flats.

The idea, DWP officials said in recent interviews, is to create a drought insurance plan by injecting water from the aqueduct, or percolating runoff in unusually wet years, down into the natural subterranean reservoir they believe is capable of holding up to 250,000 acre-feet of water.

DWP ratepayers have already spent at least $1.4 billion for vegetation, gravel, furrowing and shallow flooding that have reduced dust pollution by more than 99% — the largest dust mitigation effort in the United States. Each year, that project uses about 60,000 acre-feet of water worth about $42 million, officials said.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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