Every year, L.A. County loses over 100 billion gallons of water—enough to meet the annual needs of more than 2 million people.
We live in a water-scarce area and rely heavily on imported water from other regions. Extreme weather conditions and the five-year drought have severely impacted communities across the county.
And because so much of our region is paved over, too much precious rainfall is lost to the ocean before we can capture it for use. When we experience heavy rains, our original system captures only a fraction of rainfall.
As extreme weather becomes the new normal, we need to rethink where we get our water and decrease our reliance on the Sierra Nevada snowpack and the water we pay to bring into L.A. County.
Over 100 billion gallons of lost rain and other water = a year’s worth of safe, clean water for more than 2 million people.
L.A. County imports ⅔ of its water.
The rain we don’t catch washes contaminants and trash into our rivers and oceans.
By enhancing and redesigning existing green spaces (and creating new ones), we can recharge our groundwater and capture runoff through diversion structures, infiltration chambers, and pre-treatment systems.
Developing new projects and updating our current infrastructure system specifically for stormwater can improve our ability to cope with the changing climate, increasing demand, and other pressures.
Image Credit: Council for Watershed Health
Every year, over 4000 tons of trash and plastic gets cleaned from our beaches. Stormwater picks up chemicals from pesticides, fertilizers, plastics, metals from our cars, pet waste, and other contaminants as it flows over the streets and other developed areas into our rivers, streams, and the ocean, threatening public health and marine life — that’s why beach closures follow nearly every heavy rain. Many marine mammals, seabirds, and fish also wash up sick or dead along Southern California’s shoreline every year, either from mistakenly eating plastic garbage and other toxins, or ensnaring themselves.
While unclean stormwater poses risks for everyone, these problems are experienced differently across our region. Many of our region’s low-income communities have fewer parks, shade, and natural areas, and as a result are disproportionately affected. With less access to parks, shade, and natural areas, many of these communities are much more vulnerable to the effects of extreme weather conditions, like flooding and extreme heat.
Additionally, low-income communities in flood plains, near landfills, or in highly urban areas with less open, natural space to soak up stormwater are particularly at risk of exposure to contaminants found in stormwater runoff. With fewer opportunities for natural absorption of stormwater, these communities are at higher risk of flooding and as a result, at higher risk for property damage and sickness, exacerbating already existing challenges including financial instability, the hardships of costly home repairs, medical bills, or lost wages.
New stormwater infrastructure doesn’t just mean more local water — it also means new parks and green spaces where they’re needed most.
While unclean stormwater poses risks for everyone, stormwater problems are experienced differently across our region, with low-income communities often disproportionately affected.
Nature-based green stormwater infrastructure projects can capture and help clean more stormwater while providing environmental, recreational, economic, and health benefits to communities.
There are opportunities for cities and communities to help revitalize underused and disinvested areas that may be good locations for projects that help to build water and climate resiliency.
L.A. County and its 88 cities spend millions of dollars each year addressing damage to public and private property caused by uncontrolled stormwater runoff.
While we rely on outside sources for approximately 2/3 of our water, local rainfall is an essential source of L.A. County’s water supply. See how stormwater is related to our drinking water.
As climate change causes longer and more severe droughts that lower groundwater levels, local agencies will become more dependent on regional systems to provide clean water at affordable costs.