On April 29, 2019, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti released goals for the city to have a sustainable future through a plan called LA’s Green New Deal. LA’s Green New Deal is great news to share. In this deal we can see that one of the most influential cities in the world is doing local actions to become more resilient by reducing consumption and making efforts to live within the constraints of the local environment. However, as a citizen of the Big Pine Paiute Tribe of the Owens Valley, I am very interested in how LA’s Green New Deal can lead to changes in the colonial relationship with the Eastern Sierra and the development of a Green New Deal for Owens Valley.
How does LA’s Green New Deal apply to water? Los Angeles Department of Water and Power staff shared at the May 2019 Inyo/LA Standing Committee meeting that LA’s Green New Deal would:
- Reduce purchases of imported water by 50% by 2025
- Source 70% of water locally by 2035
- Build stormwater capture capacity to 150,000 acre feet per year by 2035
- Recycle 100% of all waste water for beneficial reuse by 2035
- Reduce potable water use per capita by 25% by 2035
This is all really good news for LA to be more sustainable, but none of the points reflect on reducing water gathering activities in the Eastern Sierra. In projections of what will constitute as LA’s water supply in 2040, on average up to 250,000 acre-feet annually would be exported from the Eastern Sierra for LA consumption. This annual average is the same as the average amount exported from the Eastern Sierra from 1989-2017. Therefore, LA’s Green New Deal is likely to experience no change to the colonial relationship which exists today and continue the persistent injustices to the Eastern Sierra into the foreseeable future.
Can there be a Green New Deal for Owens Valley? UCLA completed a study in February 2018 entitled, “LA Sustainable Water Project: Los Angeles City-wide Overview”. This study shared a roadmap for LA to provide 100% of its water needs through local sources. It also has served to support UCLA’s Sustainable LA Grand Challenge to meet the 100% local water goal by 2050. As a result of the study, UCLA was awarded a $5 million contract with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to work on implementing strategies for reducing the need for imported water. It appears that LA is working toward meeting the Grand Challenge and when the 100% local water goal is met by LA, then there will be no need to continue the resource colony relationship it has with the Eastern Sierra. Therefore, this is the time to begin the conversations of a Green New Deal for Owens Valley with Tribes as primary partners to assist with the healing of our homelands, Payahuunadu.