The Owens River is the source of water for Owens Lake, which was famously dried up by diversion of water to Los Angeles. Recently Los Angeles has instituted a successful restoration of the river agreed to as part of a settlement of a lawsuit instituted by the Owens Valley Committee and the Sierra Club against the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power over the issue of excessive ground water withdrawals. A minimum flow of 40 cubic feet per second is maintained in the river, with some of the water exiting at the inlet to Owens Lake being used to control dust on the dry lake bed and the remainder going on to Los Angeles.

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