After a year of suffering through one of the worst droughts in history, the winter rains have finally arrived in Southern California, bringing a shower of relief for residents and agricultural industries alike. But with these much-needed El Nino storms comes a bittersweet reminder of lost opportunity, as what’s being reported as millions of gallons of stormwater passed from the Los Angeles River into San Pedro Bay.
This past year, California residents cut water use by 25% in order to account for the serious drought that was transpiring around them. And this can be a difficult fear, as even a millimeter crack in a water pipe can result in the loss of as much as 250 gallons of drinkable, usable water per day.
Now, stormwater has become the next frontier of sorts for helping restructure California’s relationship with its water network.
As a result of winter storms, there was more than 200 billion gallons of stormwater available — enough to supply a staggering 1.4 million households for a year.
But instead, the water ended up slipping into the sewers and drains below. And this is felt the most in Los Angeles, a city parched from its short winters and glaring reliance on imported water from Northern California and the Colorado River.
For nearly a century, engineers looked for ways to flush water out of Los Angeles as quickly as possible in order to prevent deadly floods. But now, they’re looking for ways to keep the water in.
“Something that was once viewed as a nuisance is now seen as a necessity,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric M. Garcetti told The New York Times. “We haven’t done enough.”
Now, Mayor Garcetti has made bold public intentions, invoking the legacy of the famed city engineer who helped create the Los Angeles Aqueduct, in order to increase the amount of stormwater captured: 50 billion gallons by 2035.
“This is a Mulhollan moment,” said Garcetti in an interview. “I intend to re-engineer the water system again to keep water here.”