Not just a drop in the bucket

July 9, 2014 

The Pacoima Spreading Grounds will be able to store more stormwater. Photo/Architect Magazine

When it comes to quenching the water needs of a thirsty region, seemingly modest or far-flung efforts can come together to make quite a splash.

Witness a dozen local projects, from Agoura Hills to south Gardena, that just received an infusion of state grant funding totaling $23.4 million. Each initiative has a singular focus—creating bigger and better groundwater supplies in Pacoima, for instance, or installing curb screens in Calabasas to keep debris from flowing from city streets to the ocean.

But collectively, these endeavors add up to something greater than the sum of their parts: an integrated approach as diverse agencies come together to advance the kinds of water projects that will do the most good across the region.

As California’s drought makes headlines and prompts consideration of mandatory conservation measures, several of the projects have an extremely timely aim: retaining as much stormwater as possible to boost the region’s drinking water supply. Others focus on improving water quality, while some combine water initiatives with community recreation and beautification efforts.

Together, they’re the wave of the future, as the Los Angeles region looks beyond its Mulholland-era history and imagines a new approach to the next 100 years.

“It’s a new paradigm, a paradigm of cooperation and collaboration,” said Mark Pestrella, chief deputy director of the county’s Department of Public Works, which is overseeing the grant projects as leader of the Integrated Regional Water Management coalition in greater Los Angeles.

“There are 500 small water agencies in L.A. County alone, and probably six major water agencies, all talking to each other, reaching out to the communities that we serve and identifying projects that have the biggest community benefit,” Pestrella said.

The $23.4 million in Prop. 84 grant funding  that was formally accepted by the Board of Supervisors this week is just one such infusion over the past decade. Since the collaborative water management model went into effect in California in 2002, nearly $100 million has been awarded to water resource agencies in the county, Public Works Director Gail Farber said. The state grant funds, she added, “go a long way towards ensuring a more sustainable water future for L.A. County.”

The endeavors awarded the grant funds approved this week include:

  • The Pacoima Spreading Grounds Improvement Project, where new and updated equipment and improved stormwater storage will yield enough new drinking water to supply 42,000 Los Angeles residents for a year. Plans also are under consideration to create a park or open space on the grounds of an adjacent channel.
  • Development of a second phase of Marsh Park in the Elysian Valley neighborhood near the L.A. River. The new design will convert industrial land into an open space park that also happens to collect and treat stormwater.
  • Restoration of a 34-acre “flood retention basin” in the Upper Malibu Creek Watershed area.
  • Design and construction of a 1¼-mile recycled water pipeline in south Gardena.

And, with California’s drought front and center, more help may be on the way soon. The state later this month is expected to issue a new round of grant funding devoted exclusively to drought-fighting projects.

An ambitious slate of 14 L.A. County projects seeking more than $28.8 million in funding has been submitted, with an emphasis on water recycling and replenishing groundwater. The overall goal of the drought-related projects is building the local water supply and reducing dependence on imports.

Posted 7/9/14


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