Los Angeles Business Journal

Clean Break on Water

OP-ED: Los Angeles sees recycling as means to keep aquifers full while reducing dependence on importing. By Calvin Naito Monday, September 2, 2013

You need local clean water to live.

Water is essential to your life. If a day passes without you drinking any, you will die. In south Los Angeles County, 40 percent comes from water stored under your feet.

It is called groundwater, and you should support efforts to protect and preserve it.

The next time you turn on your kitchen faucet and fill a glass with water, hold it up and look at it before you take a sip. A little less than half of the glass comes from water that is stored underground. The water beneath your feet is stored in underground reservoirs called aquifers.

However, in order to keep pulling this water out of the ground through wells (which are like straws), we must continuously put an equal amount into the underground lakes. If we don’t, the underground basins will go dry. In other words, the basins need to be continuously replenished.

In the south county, the entity responsible for doing this is the Water Replenishment District of Southern California.

The district’s job is to protect and preserve the area’s groundwater for 43 south county cities, which collectively constitute 4 million people – roughly 40 percent of the county’s population and 10 percent of California’s population.

The totality of users – residences, businesses, industries – in the district service area collectively use 80 billion gallons of groundwater per year. The district assesses replenishment fees on water users to fund its projects and operations.

The replenishment water comes from three sources: stormwater capture, and recycled and imported water.

Much of this water is deposited in two large leaky ponds called “spreading grounds” located in the Pico Rivera area. The porous earth beneath the spreading grounds allows the water to percolate down into aquifers, thereby replenishing the two basins in the district service area.

The breakdown of the three streams today is 40 percent stormwater, 40 percent recycled water and 20 percent imported water.

The district seeks to eliminate the area’s dependence on expensive imported water and become self-reliant.

How do we create a more reliable system? The general answer is: find a way to utilize more recycled water.

The district has a more specific answer on how to increase the amount of recycled water used. It has something called the Groundwater Reliability Improvement Program, or Grip, which is in the conceptual and planning stages. This includes evaluating various project alternatives. Grip is a main component of the district’s Water Independence Now, or WIN, suite of projects.

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