Los Angeles' new 'Mulholland moment' for safe and adequate water: Eric Garcetti
|<b>March 3, 2018</b> - Does LA have enough water for the future? Mayor Eric Garcetti, but the plan needs to be smart and sustainable, emphasizing local water.|
|LA Daily New|
The Los Angeles River near the Sepulveda Dam.
If you want a window into Los Angeles history, look to the tap. More than a century ago, the arrival of the aqueduct marked the beginning of a modern L.A. that quickly grew from a dusty pueblo into a sprawling metropolis — and a thirsty one at that.
In the City of Angels, building access to safe and adequate water is both an imperative and an opportunity. Headlines of contamination in Flint and extreme water shortages in Cape Town remind us that it can never be taken for granted.
I’m not taking it for granted, so today we are in the midst of what I call a second Mulholland moment: just as our city’s greatest water engineer built out the brilliant infrastructure to deliver water to our growing city over a century ago, we have launched a second opportunity to reimagine our water infrastructure. This is a task made all the more urgent by the effects of a changing climate — an historic period of drought that has exacerbated wildfires visible from space. That is why we’re acting now to invest in our local water supply.
As mayor, I’ve focused on leaving behind critical new bold infrastructure projects that can sustain our city’s economy and our earth’s environment, from building out a zero-emissions port to bringing public transit to our airport, from creating or extending fifteen rapid transit lines to revitalizing the L.A. River. And as part of my “Sustainable City pLAn,” Los Angeles committed to reducing the purchase of imported water by 50 percent by 2025, and to producing 50 percent of our water locally by 2035. During the drought, Angelenos stepped up and reduced water usage by 20 percent — and we will continue to conserve. And while these goals are achievable, it is going to take a lot more than conservation to get there.
In years past, we’ve taken water from the Owens Valley, the California Delta and the Colorado River. But we cannot rely solely on 20th century engineering for our 21st century water needs — and projects like the Delta tunnels run the risk of siphoning off precious ratepayer dollars and endangering the fragile Delta ecosystem. We will never be able to solve our water needs if we have tunnel vision.
I’m often asked if we have enough water in Los Angeles for our future. And I always answer that we have plenty of water. When people learn that we discard 60 percent of our equivalent daily water use in treated wastewater into the ocean, or that 50 percent of our water usage goes to landscaping, residents understand that the issue is not whether we have enough water — but rather whether we are managing, reusing, and recycling our water efficiently.
Tapping into locally sourced water offers the key to achieving our goals. Over the next four years, we will invest approximately $600 million in the San Fernando Valley where the Groundwater Basin has the capacity to serve more than 800,000 residents per year. The North Hollywood West Treatment Wellhead, which is now under construction, will process enough water for 35,600 homes once operational in 2020. And last week, we launched a pilot project at the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant which will, by 2026, enable the facility to double its recycling capacity.
And we’re not stopping there. Whether it’s building green streets in Elysian Valley and South L.A., or park projects in Sun Valley and North Hollywood that put water back in the ground instead of washing it out to the ocean, sustainable design for stormwater capture helps us recycle precious water while lessening the effects of neighborhood flooding.
Local water is affordable water. While our water goals come at a cost, the long-term price is far less than importing water from the Delta or across state lines. The state has supported these efforts and awarded Los Angeles a $44.5 million grant covering half the construction cost of the North Hollywood West Wellhead. L.A. voters who helped pass the recent state water bond will continue to count on state support as other projects advance, and also hope to see more engagement from the federal government.
And Washington, in their new infrastructure spending blueprint, should direct funds to ensure Los Angeles — and communities throughout America — have resilient water infrastructure. Why? Because water security is national security.
When water first rushed through the Los Angeles Aqueduct spillway, William Mulholland declared to those present: “There it is. Take it.” While the aqueduct has withstood the test of time, Mulholland’s words have not. As we embark on a second Mulholland moment, let’s adapt his words for a new era. Here it is. Capture it. Recycle it. Conserve it.
Eric Garcetti is the mayor of Los Angeles.
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