Water in LA County is complex. Partnerships amongst more than 200 agencies and departments are required to create a shared, inclusive and regional path forward. Click the boxes above to see how our systems need to be managed together to advance water resiliency, improve drinking water, agricultural and industrial water supplies, environmental water quality, flood control, and overall quality of life in LA County.
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The County is crisscrossed with a series of independent water, wastewater, and natural systems. These systems operate independently but are often linked to allow for water sharing and emergency connections.
Interconnected systems, including imported water, provide reliability in emergencies but can create challenges when resources are moved across areas. Although within legal rights, those that share access to a resource may be opposed to “exporting” supplies to other parts of the County.
The LA River and network of flood control facilities allow for diversion and recharge of stormwater and recycled water, but cross political jurisdictions and land uses so must be managed collaboratively.
The Santa Clara River flows from LA County into neighboring Ventura County and must be managed across county lines.
Recycled water is produced downgradient of multiple wastewater collection systems across Los Angeles County – allowing for gravity to facilitate wastewater flows. While some is used locally, a significant portion of recycled water production is discharged into the Pacific Ocean
Recycled water is a hugely untapped local supply and will require substantial investments in regional infrastructure to align recycled supplies with upgradient urban demands.
Partnerships between agencies are necessary to produce and supply recycled water in areas where water and wastewater services are not provided by the same entities.
Climate change means less frequent but more intense local storms, creating an opportunity for storage to capture storm flows.
While Antelope Valley naturally replenishes groundwater, the LA Basin depends on groundwater recharge facilities to capture and infiltrate or inject various water supplies, including stormwater, imported, and recycled water to replenish the groundwater basin.
Timing must be aligned, through collaborative management, to ensure we can capture supplies when they are available. Doing so will maximize storage and decrease freshwater discharges to the ocean.
Most of LA County’s basins are adjudicated and manage different
production and treatment issues.
Groundwater quality can change over time and evolving water quality regulations for natural and manmade contaminates mean LA County’s groundwater managers must leverage existing production facilities that can provide additional treatment.
In systems like Antelope Valley where there is no opportunity to discharge to the ocean, salts are concentrated in the basin and watershed areas. Conversely, in coastal LA County, groundwater basins must be managed to maintain barriers against seawater intrusion.
Collaborative management is needed to ensure adequate recharge and achieve potable drinking water treatment needs for the various systems that depend on the same basin.
LA County is extremely diverse in population and geography leading to varying priorities. Demands within the County differ due to topography, micro-climates, population density, and land uses. There is no one size fits all solution to water supply and quality management.
Demands are inherently local. LA County has limited agriculture, so most of the demands are focused on urban needs.
The large wildland-urban interface within LA County has resulted in significant impacts to water quality and infrastructure. In wildfires, burn areas are often located in the midst of “urban areas.”
There are over 200 drinking water supply entities operating in LA County with a unique mix of governance structures and system challenges which leads to great variability in the cost and quality of water for customers, even while all systems are meeting basic health and safety standards.
More than half of the drinking water suppliers in the County serve fewer than 10,000 people each. Smaller systems often face the biggest challenges because their smaller customer bases limit the revenue available to invest in capital infrastructure and staff, and they may not have interconnected systems to provide reliability in emergencies.
There are multiple entities that regulate water quality standards in LA County, each driven by differing types of business models and legal requirements – which contributes to drinking water equity concerns across the region.