Best Available Control Measures
Overlooking the New Owens Lake
FAMOUS AS THE LAKE THAT became a dangerous dustbowl after Los Angeles built its aqueduct a hundred years ago, Owens Lake has been transformed. Legally compelled into action, the Department of Water and Power has spent more than a billion dollars over the last 20 years, remaking a lake with as little water as possible.
The lake is now a constructed and managed landscape on an unprecedented scale, a cyborg, cubist version of a lake, fractured into fragments—gravel, grasses, tillage, furrows, wetlands, pools, shallows, depths, and islands—each engineered to perform a function, which collectively add up to make a lake that is acceptable to the future.
Though Owens Lake still doesn’t look like much from the ground, a hazy white mass extending into the distance at the base of the eastern Sierras, its visage from above is something else, altogether. 
The unique qualities of form and scale of this new terraformed landscape were shown in Best Available Control Measures: Aerial Portraits of Owens Lake, an exhibit of aerial video landscans made by the Center for Land Use Interpretation, as the DWP’s construction project nears completion and enters the stage of perpetual maintenance. ♦
5258 Zones T36-3, T36-2. Brine, shallow pond. CLUI photo
5259 Zone T16. Curving tillage. CLUI photo
5261 Zones T30-1. Managed vegetation, land art, shallow and deep ponds with islands. CLUI photo
5264 Zones T16, T13-3. Shallow and deep ponds with islands, curving tillage. CLUI photo
5266 Zone T1A-4. Sprinkler irrigation. CLUI photo
5272 Zone T27N, T29-3. Sprinkler irrigation with intermittent ponds, non-uniform meandering ridges. CLUI photo
5274 Gravel blanket (adjacent to Zone T21). CLUI photo