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Water wars - city indulgence or environmental justice?

States that have deserts in them have long been concerned about water supplies.

California's huge population is ground zero for water wars that other cities and states can learn from

Between the Colorado River and Owens Lake -- we have a hundred years of experience with moving water around and wrecking havoc with environments far from city limits.

Owens Lake is a good example of why we should be concerned about where our water comes from -- and how much water we use personally and on the job.

Today, Owens Lake looks more like a desert than a lake. In the 1800s, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power bought up the land -- with water rights -- and proceeded to divert the river from going into the lake to going to Los Angles miles and miles away.

This desert that isn't a desert ecosystem is the largest stationary source of pollution in America. It's wind-blown dust violates EPA standards of particulate matter 20-30 times a year. THe DWP is now trying to reverse the damage done to Owens Lake to the tune of millions of dollars every year -- for a total of about a half billion dollars!

They are diverting up to a quarter of the aqueduct's water back to the lakebed to bring back shallow flooding and managed vegetation to reduce particulate matter -- dust. The project is scheduled to end in 2006 with 29.8 square miles treated.

Unforeseen consequences of water projects are dramatic on the people, the land, the insects, the local wildlife, and the air and water quality for miles around.

And unforeseen consequences of restoration projects bring on their own set of environmental problems. The muddy edges of this new shallow lake is the perfect environment for swamp insects -- no-see-ums, horseflies, and deerflies. They are now expecting to see West Nile virus from migratory birds and other insect related problems to increase.

Owens Valley could have been a rich agricultural valley if they had their natural water supply. The water was diverted to give that future to the San Fernando Valley in northern Los Angeles. Today, Ownes Valley is a natural area with open space for hiking and fishing at the foot of the beautiful Sierra Nevada mountains -- and San Fernando Valley is a concrete jungle.

Breaking a natural habitat system has untold unforeseen problems.

This is why it is even more important that we, as individuals, as workplace decision makers, conserve our use of water, and preserve the quality of fresh water. Our water system is precious in so many ways. Not just for health and beauty, but pure economics as well.