Does LA Have Enough Water for the Next 25 Years?

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A comprehensive plan approved this week by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power lays out strategies to continue providing water to this drought-afflicted city for the next 25 years. As KPCC notes, the plan says the area will have enough water–even if the drought continues and population increases by 500,000.

State water agencies are required to update urban water management plans every five years, but in the midst of a historic drought, this latest revision will be especially important in ensuring the city has the resources to continue to grow and prosper…and, you know, take a shower every now and then.

The most ambitious part of the new plan is its goal of reducing LA’s dependence on water from outside sources. Right now, the city imports the vast majority of its water; much of it still flows through the trusty Los Angeles Aqueduct. But in recent years, the city has been obligated to divert much of that water back to the Owens Valley in order to keep harmful dust from rising out of the dry Owens Lake bed. Since 2012, DWP has purchased most of its water from the Metropolitan Water District, which in turn gets its water from Northern California and the Colorado River.

Water supply sources

Under the framework put in place by DWP officials in the new plan, the agency would obtain as much as half of its water locally by 2040. This would be accomplished by improving infrastructure to capture and treat stormwater and groundwater. The agency also wants to continue promoting water-saving strategies to help reduce demand. Since 2007, overall water use in the city has dropped off considerably.

LA now uses less water than it did in 1970, when population was just over half of what it is today.

Water use dataWater use data

Still, some are skeptical of DWP’s optimism on this front. In an article published in City Watch, blogger Casey Maddren points out that much of the infrastructure needed to obtain water from local sources doesn’t exist yet or is not in working condition. Ensuring DWP’s plan is successful will at the very least require significant investment.

Of course, no long-range plan is without a fair amount of guesswork. Fingers crossed DWP continues to make strides in reducing demand and increasing local supply. In the meantime, those concerned about Los Angeles’s parched and apocalyptic near-future can rest a little easier, knowing there’s at least this plan.

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