100 Years of Dust: Owens Lake and the Los Angeles Aqueduct


100 Years of Dust: Owens Lake and the Los Angeles Aqueduct


Exhibit Dates

November 4 - December 11, 2014


University of the Pacific's Reynolds Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of large-scale color photographs by Photography Professor Jennifer Little. The exhibition, 100 Years Of Dust: Owens Lake and the Los Angeles Aqueduct, documents the latest chapter in a century of legal battles over water rights and air quality in Owens Valley, California.

Owens Lake lies in Southern California's Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains, about 200 miles northeast of Los Angeles. This 110-square-mile lake began to dry up in 1913 when the City of Los Angeles diverted the Owens River into the Los Angeles Aqueduct. The new water supply allowed Los Angeles to continue its rapid growth and turned the arid San Fernando Valley into an agricultural oasis, but at a tremendous environmental cost. By 1926, Owens Lake was a dry alkali flat, and its dust became the largest source of carcinogenic particulate air pollution in North America.

In 1998, the Environmental Protection Agency mandated that the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) take steps to minimize this dust pollution, which was 100 times greater than federal air safety standards. LADWP began construction on the Owens Lake Dust Mitigation Project in the year 2000. This dust mitigation program has cost $1.2 billion to date and requires so much water that it may not be sustainable as climate change results in a drier climate for California, which is currently experiencing the worst drought in recorded history.

Photographer Jennifer Little and guest speaker Kathy Bancroft will give a joint presentation about water rights conflicts in Owens Valley at 7:00pm, Room 209, in the Jeannette Powell Art Center. Kathy Bancroft is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone Reservation. She manages a team of archaeologists who monitor the ongoing dust-mitigation construction project at Owens Lake to make sure that Paiute cultural sites are preserved. As a lifelong resident of the Owens Valley and an expert on the dust mitigation program, she will address the history of conflicts between the Paiute reservations and the City of Los Angeles over land and water rights.

Exhibit Curator

Jennifer Little

100 Years of Dust: Owens Lake and the Los Angeles Aqueduct