Owens Valley Fight
Jul 13, 2017
L.A. took their water and land a century ago. Now the Owens Valley is fighting back
A century ago, agents from Los Angeles converged on the Owens Valley on a secret mission.
They figured out who owned water rights in the lush valley and began quietly purchasing land, posing as ranchers and farmers.
Soon, residents of the Eastern Sierra realized much of the water rights were now owned by Los Angeles interests. L.A. proceeded to drain the valley, taking the water via a great aqueduct to fuel the metropolis’ explosive growth.
This scheme became an essential piece of California history and the subject of the classic 1974 film “Chinatown.” In the Owens Valley, it is still known as the original sin that sparked decades of hatred for Los Angeles as the valley dried up and ranchers and farmers struggled to make a living.