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This book provides a concise overview of Los Angeles’ water policy and presents opportunities for securing LA’s water future. The problems and solutions are representative of the Green LA Water Team’s remedies to efficiently and sustainably meet our water needs and address the challenges of climate change.

NOT ENOUGH O TO WASTE Solutions to Securing LA’s Water Future

Presented by the Green LA Coalition Water Team

Not Enough To Waste Solutions to Securing LA’s Water Future

Presented by the Green LA Coalition Water Team

Everyone talks about the water shortage in Los Angeles, but our dry climate is nothing new. There are many ways we can maximize the water resources we do have. By eliminating wasteful consumption and addressing systemic inefficiencies, we can do more with less.

Snowmelt replenishes our creeks and rivers and is an important source of local water for Los Angeles.

First of All,

It’s Not a Drought! YOU MAY HAVE HEARD THAT LOS ANGELES IS IN A DROUGHT, but the fact is LA has a semi-arid climate, similar to the Mediterranean, where dry years are historically more common than wet ones. If we use our water resources wisely, we can find permanent solutions for a more reliable supply that reduces our dependence on imported water and maximizes our local water sources.


Where Do We Get Our Water? LOCAL WATER SOURCES


GROUNDWATER BASINS - Six major groundwater basins (or aquifers) could provide a significant amount of our water supply; however, many have been contaminated and overly-paved urban areas often prevent water from entering the aquifers.

THE LOS ANGELES AQUEDUCT Brings water from Owens Valley and Mono Lake into Los Angeles. It is controlled by the LA Department of Water and Power and provides water solely to Los Angeles.

LOCAL SURFACE WATER - The water in nearby rivers, streams, lakes, and reservoirs originates from rainwater and snowmelt in local mountains, but is mostly diverted to storm drains that send the water out to sea. WATER RECYCLING - The process through


which wastewater undergoes multiple levels of treatment so that it can be safely reused or released.

Local Groundwater

WATER EFFICIENCY - A most promising

Recycled Water


LA Aqueduct 35%

source is the water that Los Angeles saves through efficiency measures, both through residential and business efforts with government incentives.

Metropolitain Water District 53%


Not Enough To Waste

METROPOLITAN WATER DISTRICT The Colorado River Aqueduct - diverts water from the Colorado River to Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Mexico, and many parts of Southern California. In recent years, our share of this water source has diminished. The California State Water Project includes the California Aqueduct, which brings water from the Sacramento Bay and San Joaquin River Delta through the Central Valley, into Southern California. The energy required to move and treat this water makes the State Water Project the largest single energy user in the state.

We need to reduce our dependence on imported water sources by maximizing our use of local water.


It’s All Connected A holistic approach to watershed management

ev ap

snowfall A WATERSHED IS THE AREA OF LAND where all the water from rainfall, snowmelt, and runoff drains to a common end point, such as a river, lake or ocean. Water is not static. It constantly flows both above and below ground, even in lakes and seas where it evaporates into the atmosphere and falls again as rain or snow.

Successful watershed management requires the collaboration of all parties who take water from or put water into the watershed, as well as those whose actions alter the natural drainage patterns of the landscape. Development, industry, agriculture, and other land use activities all have water supply and water quality implications throughout the watershed.

at io



er riv

A watershed management approach to water policy considers land and water resources as inseparable and strives to manage them accordingly. Such an approach is essential for identifying


sources of existing contamination of surface and groundwater, for preventing

wastewater treatment urban run-off wastewater

further pollution, and for navigating the intricacies of conflicting water supply and water rights demands.

catch basin storm drain



inďŹ ltration


Everyone (cities, water agencies, businesses and individuals) needs to do their part to prevent pollution from entering our watershed.

groundwater 3

Not Enough To Waste


Doing More With Less



An Easier & Less Expensive Water Source

DESPITE THE PROGRESS THAT HAS BEEN MADE, THERE ARE STILL many unexplored opportunities for water efficiency in Los Angeles. The Pacific Institute estimates that more than one-third of current urban water usage (2.3 million acre-feet) could be saved statewide through better implementation of existing efficiency technologies for homes and businesses, such as dual-flush toilets, and high-efficiency showers, washing machines, and dishwashers. Eighty-five percent of those savings could be achieved at costs lower than those required to tap new water sources. Excessive levels of personal water use for domestic and landscaping purposes represent a large source of unnecessary consumption. An aging water infrastructure exacerbates the problem, while an unwillingness to fully utilize cost-effective options like rainwater and greywater further frustrate conservation efforts.



» Prioritize educational outreach. LADWP should increase partnerships with the Los Angeles Unified School District to educate students about conservation and engage them in water audits.

» Continue the conservation measures currently mandated by the City of Los Angeles.

» LADWP should provide workshops to enroll customers in existing dual meter programs for watering outdoor landscapes, and provide rebates to make dual metering more affordable. » LADWP should make all water conservation and CA Friendly Landscape workshops and materials available in multiple languages, and include more hands-on training. » LADWP must ensure that low-income communities, particularly renters, are aware and able to participate in water conservation and rebate programs. » City officials should model behavior by stringently following the City’s water conservation ordinance and making it a public campaign. » The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California must reinstate historic water conservation programs and prioritize water conservation and watershed management in their budget. FOR MORE INFORMATION:

» Enact building ordinances that require water effi ciency standards for publicly-owned building retrofits and construction of new residential and commercial developments. » Install dual plumbing in new buildings and retrofits to enable the use of greywater for toilets, landscapes and other non-potable uses. » Mandate Low Impact Development strategies for all new and redeveloped buildings.

WATER EFFICIENCY TECHNOLOGIES » Promote and incentivize new technologies aimed at individual consumers that are readily available and easy to install, like high efficiency toilets, showerheads, washing machines, dishwashers and point of use water heaters without tanks. » Reduce outdoor usages, the highest percentage of domestic water consumption, through the installation of dual landscape meters and smart irrigation technology.



Not Enough To Waste

Not Enough To Waste


Greening Our City With Less

An example of LID Roof Downspout

Smarter Development & Sustainable Landscaping Perforated pipe runs length of planter

LOW IMPACT DEVELOPMENT Low Impact Development (LID) refers to development practices that seek to capture or infiltrate a larger percentage of rainwater runoff. By capturing the water onsite it can be used for irrigation or gradually released into the groundwater table rather than being diverted to the ocean. In this process, pollutants are filtered out naturally as the water percolates down through the soil. LID practices divert rainwater from roofs and paved areas to landscaping, planter boxes, and bio-retention areas, instead of storm drains. Cement and asphalt surfaces are replaced with porous pavement that allows water to filter through to the groundwater basin. LID also incorporates larger rainwater capture systems, such as underground cisterns where the soil has a low infiltration rate. Bio-retention areas, zones that retain rainwater and runoff, utilize natural soil and plant-based filtration rather than more expensive technologies, to clean water before it percolates

Overflow drains to pipe

Splash Box to break the force of water

NATIVE & DROUGHT TOLERANT LANDSCAPING Outdoor water usage represents the highest percentage of residential urban water consumption in Los Angeles. The traditional lawns and imported tropical plants popular with many home and business owners require more water to survive than the Los Angeles area can naturally provide.

Soil Mix Flows to storm drain

Gravel Bedding

By landscaping with California native plants (or plants from other semi-arid regions) we can greatly reduce outdoor water usage. According to the results of a study by the City of Santa Monica’s Offi ce of Sustainability and the Environment, maintaining a traditional

Amount of water needed to landscape a typical single family home. Traditional Lawn

lawn requires almost ten times the amount of water needed to support


a sustainably landscaped yard.

gallons of water per year Over-watering also washes significant amounts of toxic pesticides and fertilizers into storm drains, tributaries, creeks, groundwater supplies, and ultimately into the ocean.

Sustainably Landscaped Yard


gallons of water per year

into groundwater. FOR MORE INFORMATION: 7

Not Enough To Waste

Not Enough To Waste


Reuse Recharge Restore

Los Angeles


The Road to Water Reclamation



WATER RECYCLING, THE PROCESS THROUGH WHICH wastewater undergoes multiple levels of treatment so that it can be safely reused, is another important opportunity for increasing local water supplies. Currently, highly treated wastewater is used in a variety of ways, such as for irrigation, industrial uses, and as seawater-intrusion barriers to prevent salt water from infiltrating groundwater basins. Recycled water is carried in its own separate distribution system identified as purple pipes. There are three main levels of treatment for municipal wastewater. Recycled water that has gone through all three stages of treatment can be used for irrigating golf courses and parks. Plans are underway to further purify recycled water with advanced treatment technology. The City of Los Angeles began water recycling in 1979 for irrigation and industrial uses. While LA currently uses about 4,600 acre-feet of recycled water—saving enough potable water for about 9,200 homes—this only represents between 1 and 2 percent of LA’s total water use. Recycled water that receives advanced treatment is not yet used for drinking within the City of Los Angeles.

rivers & ocean


+ irrigation

Primary Treatment The removal of sewage solids through sedimentation

Secondary Treatment Biological processes further remove organic compounds

Tertiary Treatment Combines chemical disinfection using chlorine, sedimentation and filtration

Advanced Treatment Microfiltration, reverse osmosis, ultraviolot disinfection, and hydrogen peroxide treatments remove remaining organic matter and minerals.

spreading basin

industrial use groundwater

well water

drinking water treatment plant



Not Enough To Waste


Although Los Angeles does not currently use recycled water for drinking purposes, this can be a safe and inexpensive way to replenish our groundwater supplies.

The protection of streams and the revitalization of the Los Angeles River are key components towards local water sustainability and increasing open space throughout the city.

Restoring our natural ecosystems allows for greater benefits to our local water supply, while providing refuge to sensitive habitat. (LA River at Sepulveda Basin)

Making Every Drop Count! Greywater & Rainwater Capture

GREYWATER AND RAINWATER CAPTURE SYSTEMS ARE TWO ways to make use of water resources that would otherwise go to waste. With greywater systems, wastewater from sources like washing machines, hand sinks, and showers is captured on site and reused in toilets and for landscape irrigation. Greywater is defined as wastewater that, although not potable, does not contain sewage, significant food residue, or dangerous concentrations of chemicals. As 50 to 80 percent residential wastewater is greywater, these systems represent huge potential water savings. Rainwater capture systems include cisterns and rain barrels that store water for later use in irrigation, as well as swales and rain gardens that infiltrate water. These systems reduce the use of potable water for landscaping purposes and can provide the added benefit of replenishing local groundwater basins.


Not Not Enough Enough To To Waste Waste

Greywater & rainwater capture systems allow homeowners to cut costs by making use of water that would otherwise go to waste. 14

Let’s Plug the Leaks


Infrastructure solutions that can have a big impact

SYSTEM AUDITS System audits should apply to residential and commercial users. Similar to the energy assessment that DWP provides to its customers, water audits should also be provided. For example, in Australia a water provider can monitor the water use of any single customer or across a particular area. By using special meters that are connected remotely to a computer system, this allows monitoring of specific locations or areas and makes it easier to target outreach where it is most needed. This should be done at no charge to LADWP lifeline rate customers.

1 REPAIRING & REPLACING OLD INFRASTRUCTURE Aging water mains waste tremendous amounts of water through leaks and spills, and can also cause great damage when they break. System-wide inefficiencies, such as leaking infrastructure, are a preventable source of waste in the Los Angeles region. By retrofitting old plumbing throughout the LA water system, and promoting similar replacements in


homes and businesses, LA can achieve substantial water savings.


Local water agencies should take a proactive role in repairing and replacing the City’s old infrastructure rather than waiting for large breaks to occur. The City must increase the rate of replacement of infrastructure repair and rehabilitation and assist low-income homeowners in upgrading their old plumbing.


For too long, water infrastructure has been out of sight and mind. Repairing and modernizing our infrastructure saves water and money. Not Enough To Waste

As the City works towards expanding its recycled water output, existing infrastructure must also be expanded for delivery of the recycled water through purple pipes. Investing in increasing delivery systems for recycled water for landscaping and industrial uses will move the City towards a more effective use of its recycled water supply.

Not Enough To Waste


Cleaning up Our Act Groundwater Clean-up & Pollution Control

PRIOR TO THE PASSAGE OF THE CLEANWATER ACT IN 1973, there were no regulations on how industry and agriculture distributed, stored, and disposed of a variety of toxic chemicals, leaving groundwater basins across the country compromised. This pollution has caused the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to remove from service 54 out of 115 groundwater extraction wells in the San Fernando Basin alone due to their proximity to the contamination. The problem can be exacerbated when groundwater levels drop too low, as concentrations increase and contaminants can migrate. Such is the case in the main San Gabriel Valley Basin, which is contaminated with chromium 6 and perchlorate. The Department of Defense has fought for years to avoid funding significant clean up by stating that they would not act until the EPA set national standards for permissible levels of perchlorate contamination in drinking


water, while simultaneously fighting for broad exemptions from federal environmental laws. Pressure must be put on the responsible parties, including the Department of Defense, to fulfill their legal duty to clean up Superfund sites in our groundwater basins. Previous legislative efforts by California federal representatives have stalled in Washington. A broad coalition of local, state, and federal officials should aggressively pursue clean up funding through Congress and the current administration. In addition, stricter legislative standards must be devised and enforced to prevent future pollution from industrial, agricultural and other sources from continuing to contaminate our water sources.

Regional groundwater basins could meet more than a third of our water needs, and therefore must be remediated and protected.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: programs/gama/grid.shtml

Not Enough To Waste

Not Enough To Waste


Money Down the Drain

Bottled water can be

thousands of times more expensive

Bottled & Vended Water

DISPELLING THE MYTHS It is a commonly held misconception that the tap water in of the City of Los Angeles is not fit for drinking. In fact, LA’s water not only meets or exceeds all federal and state safety standards, in 2008, MWD tied for the gold medal in the Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting Award for best testing municipal water.

Finally, there are safety concerns with vended water. In 2000, the Los Angeles County Environmental Toxicology Bureau found that 33 percent of the 279 water vending machines they tested violated the EPA standard for cancer-causing trihalomethanes, a by-product of water chlorination.

than tap water

WHAT CAN WE DO? In California, the price of bottled water can be thousands of times more expensive than the cost of tap water. Bottled and vended water is also environmentally damaging, not only

the plastic, but also because of the resources required to transport this water over long distances. Purchasing bottled water also helps to accelerate the process of water privatization that is occurring

To remedy people’s reliance on bottled and vended water MWD & LADWP must step up outreach campaigns to change public perceptions regarding the safety of tap water. The Mayor can send a powerful message by holding managers accountable to the ban on bottled water in all city departments. The City of San Francisco banned bottled water within all branches of city government, successfully reducing

in many parts of the world. As industry takes control of more fresh water sources,

municipal bottled water purchases from about $500,000 a year to zero.

because of the amount of trash generated and the oil needed to create

33% of water vending machines in Los Angeles failed to meet the EPA standard for cancer-causing trihalomethanes.

communities that once relied on this water are finding their access curtailed. FOR MORE INFORMATION:


Not Enough To Waste

Not Enough To Waste


So What Now? Protecting LA’s Water Future

Water insecurity is a growing problem and if sustainable measures are not implemented now, it will become harder to meet the population’s water needs and

and environmental costs. Water efficiency, improved watershed management, expansions of recycled water, and avoiding vended water and are all easy

achieve the regional water independence necessary for Los Angeles’ future.

solutions that can help build the city’s resiliency to become more adaptable and self-sufficient. These solutions will help Los Angeles meet its water demands more sustainably and provide economic benefits in community workforce and redevelopment.

There are many factors that play into the current water situation in the Los Angeles region, but it is clear that this is a permanent problem that city government and residents will have to address, particularly in the face of climate change. Many of the solutions proposed here are simple and effective for both offi cials and residents to use for maximizing local water resources with the lowest monetary investment

For further reference and for sources of facts presented in Not Enough to Waste, please see: for a white paper expanding on these concepts, also called Not Enough to Waste: Solutions to Securing LA’s Water Future.

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.” – Mahatma Gandhi


Not Enough To Waste

Contaminated storm-water is the largest cause of ocean pollution in Southern California



Not Enough to Waste was conceived and written by the Green LA Urban Ecosystems Work Group’s Water Team: City-Vida, Environmental Justice Coalition for Water, Environment Now, Food & Water Watch, Sierra Club Angeles Chapter, So CA Watershed Alliance, and Urban Semillas. The group is staffed by the Green LA Coalition.

Green LA is Los Angeles’ environmental coalition of eighty environmental, environmental justice and other organizations. Founded in 2005, with the support of the Liberty Hill Foundation Green LA grew into a vibrant network that forges partnerships to implement progressive policies needed to create a sustainable and just Los Angeles. Green LA is a project of Community Partners.

Members of the Green LA Urban Ecosystems Work Group including The River Project reviewed, edited and provided additional material. Graphic design and copy writing: Colleen Corcoran Joseph Prichard

Photographs by Miguel Luna (pg 1, 11 & 12) Joseph Prichard (pg 2 &23)

Grant funding for this booklet and the Water subcommittee’s Water Education Campaign provided by The Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles.

Profile for Miguel Luna

Not Enough To Waste  

A publication that provides a concise overview of Los Angeles’ water policy challenges and presents opportunities for securing LA’s water fu...

Not Enough To Waste  

A publication that provides a concise overview of Los Angeles’ water policy challenges and presents opportunities for securing LA’s water fu...