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City Seeks Public Input on New Recycled Water Program

Department of Water and Power proposes to improve the city's water supply through groundwater replenishment.

(This story was edited to replace John Humphreville's preffered first name, Jack, and to correct the cost of groundwater replenishment.)

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is in the process of completing a new Recycled Water Master Plan, LADWP officials said Tuesday during a public forum at the Sepulveda Community Garden Center.

The forum was one of a series of five public presentations held in hopes of getting feedback from communities that would be affected by the plan.

In conjunction with the Department of Public Works Bureau of Sanitation, the LADWP developed the plan of innovative water supply solutions to meet the future demands of the city.

Water recycling, highly treated waste water that undergoes multiple treatment steps, has been found to be the most cost-effective solution. There are no local natural sources of water, making this plan essential to the future of the city’s water supply, officials indicated.

Currently, Los Angeles depends on imported water, as explained in a slide show presentation introduced by Jim Yannotta, LADWP assistant director of water resources.

Yannotta kicked off the forum with what he referred to as “L.A. water 101.”

L.A. imports 85 percent of its water, said Yannotta. Those sources include the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the Delta in Northern California, the Los Angeles Aqueduct and the Colorado River Aqueduct.

“Historically, in Los Angeles, we’ve been able to get 15 percent of our water from groundwater wells,” said Yannotta. “But that’s a challenge.”

The main concerns are health-related with contamination being an issue, limiting pumping to the San Fernando Basin and totaling the usage of groundwater to an actual 11 percent.

The presentation included the Los Angeles rainfall history. Los Angeles averages about 15 inches of rain per year, according to Yannotta.  But that cannot be relied on as a reliable water source.

“It has nothing to do with drought. This year has been a great water year," said Yannotta. “Our No. 1 goal is to serve you all with safe water, because if we can’t do that we shouldn’t even have a job.”

As a result of city conservation efforts, Los Angeles residents use the same amount of water now as they did 40 years ago, despite the higher population.

Residents conserved more than 40 billion gallons in 2009 and 2010, according to Yannotta.

The key strategies of the new Recycled Water Master Plan include groundwater replenishment with highly purified, or advanced treated, recycled water.

Purple pipes were on display representing the distribution irrigation network behind the master plan.

“By doing groundwater replenishment it gives us an additional source of supply for Los Angeles,” said Yonnatta.

Conner Everts, who is a member the Recycling Water Advisory Group, participates in an outreach program with the LADWP as an independent and offers his water expertise to the plans and future programs in presentations to the public.

LADWP and the Bureau of Sanitation formed the advisory group in 2009. It is comprised of about 50 stakeholders from across the city representing environmental groups, community based organizations, neighborhood councils, homeowner associations and others, who engage with city staff to provide ideas, input and concerns regarding recycled water.

“This issue means a lot to me,” Everts, who is a Southern California steelhead trout fisherman, said during the forum. He expressed his three concerns: the fish, the cost and clean beaches.

To date, Los Angeles has had a 30-year history of water recycling. The city treats more than 350 million gallons of waste water each day.

“[This amount would] be equal to about six Rose Bowls full,” said Doug Walters, LADWP senior environmental engineer assistant division manager.

All alternatives encompassed in the Recycled Water Master Plan are cheaper than utilizing the Metropolitan Water District as a source, which L.A. has done up to 52 percent.

“I happen to like [groundwater replenishment] because it’s $300 million cheaper, minor detail,” said Jack Humphreville, also an independent and member of the Recycling Water Advisory Group, at the forum.

The goal of groundwater replenishment is to provide “cleaner than drinking standards,” and to restore up to 30,000 acre-feet of water per year.

The benefits would include a reliable local source and drought-proof supply, according LADWP officials.

Paul Liu, LADWP waterworks engineer, concluded the presentation in Encino, leaving the audience with the opinion that the Recycled Water Master Plan and groundwater replenishment deserved their support.

The cost of the Recycled Water Master Plan was estimated at between $715 million and $1 billion in order to reach a total of 50,000 acre-feet per year of recycled water, according to Liu.

“All options, in our opinion, are better than doing nothing,” said Liu.

Fern/Michael Reisner May 20, 2011 at 01:28 AM
Fantastic, first they take away our fire engins, now they want us to use recycled waste water? Whatever will DWP come up with next to raise our water rates?
Susan Eskander May 20, 2011 at 10:33 AM
If we somehow came up with a way to effectively use composting toilets - how much water would we save if we quit flushing it all away???? How much sewage would be composted instead of flushed into the bay????
Dan L. Huffman May 20, 2011 at 05:06 PM
The name of this game is of course, money , not water, as millions of gallons of fresh water are dumped by the minute. The City relys heavily on the sewer surcharge fees it charges most folks ( except those of us on septic tanks, which is why they are aggressively chasing us now for their " fee " ) Charging residents to dispose of water that they just got done selling us ( for a very high price ) sounds like a great deal for the City. They will use every " health and safety" code in the book to block composting, as unsafe. ( unsafe for their bank accounts ) Think about it....City sells us water for high price, City charges us again to dispose of water for high price, then City forces us again to re-use " used water, ie: toilet water " that they sell us back again for a high price..and then it repeats itself ! We keep buying the same product over and over again , so I figure now that if I could just get my damn burro to eat his own manure, then wouldn't I/we be exactly where this City wants to position us on water ? I want in on this action...a non stop complete financial scam circle jerk all masked under the guise of " conservation " or " going green " ( actually brown ) Sign me up !
Lawrence May 20, 2011 at 09:22 PM
Dan, Your sentiment is well understood by this reader. As a water professional, I know intimately how this all works. Unfortunately, if you want to do whats best for yourself and stop the "cycle" the only solution you have is to conserve. Using less ultimately means you pay less for what comes in and pay less for what goes out P.S. The case that septic tanks leeching into the ground leads to ground water contamination is well documented.
Lawrence May 20, 2011 at 09:30 PM
Check out this link and this book: http://features.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/2011/05/20/behind-the-big-business-of-water/
Gary R. Chandler May 21, 2011 at 02:01 PM
And how do they propose eliminating deadly prions from the waste water? These pathogens can't be removed and prion disease can't be cured. Just one person in LA with prion disease (creutzfeldt jacobs disease) will contaminate the entire sewer system and injecting treated water into groundwater will likely contaminate the groundwater forever. As more people are learning every day, prions are a form of deadly protein that builds up in the cells and bodily fluids of people and animals afflicted with various forms of prion disease, including mad cow disease, chronic wasting disease, scrapie, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. Prions now are such a formidable threat that the United States government enacted the Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 to halt research on infectious prions in the United States in all but two laboratories. Now, infectious prions are classified as select agents that require special security clearance for lab research. The intent is to keep prions and other dangerous biological materials away from terrorists who might use them to contaminate, food, water, blood, equipment, and entire facilities. Dr. Stanley Prusiner earned a Nobel Prize in 1997 for identifying and studying deadly prions. President Obama awarded Prusiner the National Medal of Science in 2010 to recognize the growing significance of his discovery. Now, we want to inject prion pathogens into groundwater? We need to rethink and manage all prion pathways immediately.
Dan L. Huffman May 21, 2011 at 03:47 PM
Well its nice to at least see some facts...my major aggravation is the apparent inability to deliver this product from the north where it is being dumped daily...wasted back into the sea. Bureaucratic bungling it is called in the piece Lawrence mentioned. All the while this City keeps pushing the toilet to tap deal....a little bit at a time...I hate to say it this way...just like the recent Fire Dept. deal....whittling away a bit at a time. Just like LAPD services, no gang units, no jailers, less officers on the streets, whittling away a little at a time. I guess it ( our surroundings and the demands and conditions of living in this city ) should come as no surprise and I can only guess that I am one who just continues to fool myself daily thinking its ever going to get better, as it seems mathematics and other factors say otherwise. Have a good day, Thanks for the info......
Lori Annans May 23, 2011 at 03:02 PM
Orange County has a successful waste water recycling to ground water replenishment system. I see nothing wrong with it. I know the idea of drinking treated sewage is off-putting, but what do you think Colorado River water is? 7 States dump into that river and then we get it : ) Plus any relief off of the Delta is a good thing. I wish they would consider diverting runoff from the LA and San Gabriel river into their plan, that would help Long Beach's and Seal Beach's water quality tremendously.
Brian Braginton-Smith May 23, 2011 at 03:21 PM
Congatulations LA, we have been working on sustainable water resource development for nearly 20 years and water re-use is a valuable opportunity. The real waste in wastewater is using the water only once to dispose of our wastes. By re-claiming the water from the waste stream the water becomes an alternative resource and the waste can then be utilized for composting or waste to energy. Sustainable cities may be at hand. - BBS Brian Braginton-Smith The Conservation Consortium

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