CNS – A plan to meet the long-term water needs of Los Angeles, which is expected to use 15 percent more water by 2030, was unveiled last week by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the Department of Water and Power. The initiative is an effort by the city to pursue more aggressive conservation efforts and an extensive water recycling program. The plan is expected to cost more than $1 billion over the next 20 years.
“The city of Los Angeles bloomed from a desert on borrowed water,” Villaraigosa said at a news conference in the Japanese Gardens of the Tillman Water Reclamation Plant.
“For over 250 years, through dry and wet seasons, we’ve grown from 44 settlers to 4 million people and every time we needed water, our approach was the same—we pitched another straw in the ground, we marched up to the mountains, to the aqueducts in distant areas and opened up our wallets.”
The first part of the plan calls for tighter controls on Angelenos’ water usage. The city’s Emergency Water Conservation Plan Ordinance already limits the watering of lawns between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. from April 1 to Sept. 30. The law also prohibits restaurants from serving water to customers unless requested.
The mayor’s office plans to pursue new restrictions that could limit outdoor water use on particular days through fines. It is not yet known how much those fines would cost, but the mayor said they would be high enough to be a deterrent. The Department of Water and Power will also begin a $2.3 million conservation education campaign.
The utility will also offer instant rebates for residents who purchase water-efficient washing machines, water-saving faucets and shower heads and waterless urinals.
“It is a very comprehensive, visionary plan, which is designed to take care of the future water supply needs of the city in a very clear-eyed and sober way,” DWP General Manager David Nahai said.
“The plan recognizes what we all know, which is that we cannot continue to rely exclusively on external sources of water.”
The second part of the city’s plan calls for a six-fold increase in the DWP’s recycled water use. Officials plan to increase the city’s system of using recycled water for irrigation and industrial uses. In the past, recycled water has been dubbed “toilet to tap,” a name that Nahai rejects.
“There is nothing to fear. We should not be deterred by demagoguery or ignorance. We should not allow ourselves to fall prey to catchy, facile phrases,” Nahai said.
The DWP will need to upgrade the Tillman Wastewater Treatment Plant in Van Nuys and upgrade the Hansen, Tujunga and Pacoima “spreading grounds,” where treated water is able to blend with existing groundwater. The process can take one to five years. That time is necessary to ensure the water is sufficiently treated, Nahai said.
“We’re certainly not going to allow our standards to be lowered in this or in any other program,” Nahai said.
A third part of the program calls for the collection of rainfall in the Big Tujunga Dam. By 2010, the DWP plans to have completed seismic retrofitting, clean up and water expansion of the dam to quadruple its capacity.
“The idea is generally that through the conservation and reclamation efforts, we will at least take care of the growth of the city in the future,” Nahai said.
As for the cost of the plan, it will “certainly not be cheap,” Nahai said.
“We’re not going to have much choice,” Nahai said.
“Given the picture with respect to our external water resources, we have to try to gain at least a measure of self-sufficiency.”
The mayor’s office estimates it will cost $1 billion for the water recycling program and infrastructure improvements and another $500 million to implement the rest of the plan. That funding will come from existing state and federal grants and the DWP’s budget. Water and power rates will not be increased to pay for the improvements, according to the mayor’s office.
It will cost an additional $500 million to $1 billion to clean up the San Fernando Groundwater Basin, but that project could be funded through litigation against “polluters.” The mayor’s office declined to identify who or what companies pollute the basin, but said it will likely be up to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to go after them. Since the 1980s, the EPA has monitored the basin’s water, which contains chromium.
Hexavalent chromium, a carcinogenic, was the chemical at the center of a $333 million settlement brokered by Erin Brockovich against Pacific Gas & Electric for residents sickened by contaminated water.