The Users


The Users

Flow: Among the area’s major water users are the Mobil refinery in Torrance and Descanso Gardens in La Canada Flintridge.

For some L.A. companies, availability of enormous amounts of water means the difference between staying in business and shutting down. Some huge users have gone so far as to secure their own private sources, but even those aren’t limitless, forcing them to go to the public sector if they run out.

Here’s a look at three large users and how they keep the water flowing:

Descanso Gardens

With thousands of different species of flowers and plants, Descanso Gardens in La Canada Flintridge has been using a private 280-acre watershed in the San Gabriel Mountains for more than 60 years. The water in its buildings and drinking fountains, however, is supplied by water wholesaler Valley Water Co. in La Canada Flintridge.

The private wells flow water into a 60,000 gallon tank, which has a 178,000 gallon tank backup. It is then pumped into the garden’s water system three miles away. Between 60,000-75,000 gallons of ranch water are used by the garden every day.

Once the water reaches the garden, it is pumped into the facility’s circulating water systems. In addition to being used to water the landscape, the water fills its lakes, ponds and streams, which are home to fish and wildlife.

“Using the ranch water is cost effective, and it releases large amounts of public water for other purposes,” said Descanso spokeswoman Avery Econome. Using a private supply saves Descanso $100,000 a year.

But the private reserve is not limitless and Descanso officials say they try to conserve by cultivating more drought resistant plants, as well as cutting by half the water for its 20-acre camellia grove, the world’s largest. Horticulturists found that the flowers didn’t need as much water as previously thought.

If the private supply of water should dry up, Descanso will turn to Valley Water Company, which buys its water from the Metropolitan Water District. But that has yet to happen. “We rely very little on public supply,” said Econome.

Unified Western Grocers Inc.

This Commerce-based company, which also runs a dairy in Los Angeles, gets its water from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. The company uses 60 percent of its 80,000-100,000 gallons of water per day for such products as Tampico Citrus Punch and its own bottled water sold under the Springfield brand.

The rest of the water is used for cleaning its production facility. Every piece of equipment that comes into contact with its products must be sanitized, said John Bedrosian, vice president of manufacturing. “Without water we could not operate,” he said.

The company has no alternative water sources and would suffer if there were any drastic rise in DWP rates. “We’re dependent on them,” said Bedrosian. “If they raised prices, we’d have no recourse but to pass the increase on.”

The company has recently begun a conservation program that includes using less water in the washing of milk crates and other equipment. “For items that don’t come in contact with food, we try to wash them with recycled water where we can.” Bedrosian said.

Oil Refineries

Local refineries in the South Bay are among the largest users of water in Los Angeles. “Utilities are one of our biggest expenditures, and water is second after electricity,” said Walter Neil, spokesman for BP Carson Refinery. The refinery uses five million gallons of water a day as part of the refining process.

About two-thirds of the refinery’s water is bought from the California Water Service Co. of Torrance, a water wholesaler that gets its supply from the Metropolitan Water District.

But four years ago, the refinery began using recycled water from the Hyperion sewage treatment plant to cool gasoline in its “cooling towers.” If Hyperion should ever have a problem, the refinery would revert to its other source. “Taking reclaimed water has helped drought-proof our neighbors,” Neil said.

Samantha Lee

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