A recent article in the New York Times highlights the progress the city of Los Angeles has made in water conservation. The words “water” and “Los Angeles” still cause much of the public, including residents, to think of the California Water Wars that inspired the film “Chinatown.” But over the past 15 years, the city has quietly become something of a pioneer in cost-effective, environmentally beneficial water conservation, collection and reuse technologies.
Not just a pioneer, but an award winner as well: The U.S. Water Alliance bestowed one of its first water sustainability awards on the city’s water integrated resource plan in 2011. Another honor followed this year when the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure gave its Envision Platinum Award to the South Los Angeles Wetlands Park. The project turned nine acres of disused bus maintenance yard into a public park that doubles as stormwater treatment facility.
Results mean more than awards and imitation, however, and Los Angeles is seeing those, too. The city now consumes less water than it did in 1970, while its population has grown by more than a third. Projects like the retrofit of the flood-prone Elmer Avenue in the Sun Valley neighborhood are showing that rainwater collection can be cost effective, too. Production of water like that captured by the project costs $300 an acre-foot, compared to the $800 to $1,000 per acre-foot Los Angeles now pays for imported water.
The success of the demonstration projects spurred city officials to adopt an ambitious 20-year water management plan that treats the Los Angeles Basin as a single watershed. The state supports the massive plan, but implementation will be difficult given that more than 100 water-conveying entities operate in the basin.
A city that imports 89 percent of its water cannot rest on its conservation laurels, especially as droughts in the West threaten to lengthen and deepen. Even so, Los Angeles is taking bold steps to address a problem—water shortage—that most municipalities in our region will face. Western congratulates Los Angeles and looks forward to sharing more success stories on the city’s water management plan.
Source: New York Times, 12/7/14