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The California Water Wars were a series of conflicts between the city of Los Angeles, farmers and ranchers in the Owens Valley of Eastern California, and environmentalists. As Los Angeles grew in the late 1800s, it started to outgrow its water supply. Fred Eaton, mayor of Los Angeles, realized that water could flow from Owens Valley to Los Angeles via an aqueduct. The aqueduct construction was overseen by William Mulholland and was finished in 1913. The water rights were acquired through political fighting and, as described by one author, "chicanery, subterfuge ... and a strategy of lies".[1]:62 Farmers in the Owens Valley may not have received fair value for their water rights.

By the 1920s, so much water was diverted from the Owens Valley that agriculture became difficult. This led to the farmers trying to destroy the aqueduct. Los Angeles prevailed and kept the water flowing. By 1926, Owens Lake at the bottom of Owens Valley was completely dry due to water diversion.

The water needs of Los Angeles kept growing. In 1941, Los Angeles diverted water that previously fed Mono Lake into the aqueduct. Mono Lake, north of Owens Valley, is an important ecosystem for migrating birds. The lake level dropped after the water was diverted, which threatened the migrating birds. Environmentalists, led by David Gaines and the Mono Lake Committee engaged in a series oflitigation with Los Angeles between 1979 and 1994. The litigation forced Los Angeles to stop diverting water from around Mono Lake, which has started to rise back to a level that can support its ecosystem.

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Q: Why was the issue of water rights important in early California?
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