Los Angeles is running out of water, and time. Are leaders willing to act?
“The truth is, we’re not going to have water. We’re going to see the situation deteriorate. And it will last 30 years,” said a former director of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP).
The Los Angeles City Council is set to vote on a deal that would hand over the DWP to Los Angeles County and have the state take over its water system in 2039. Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti and county supervisors have come out against it, while DWP board chairman Michael D. Antonovich has said it is the only choice.
And that choice will have serious consequences for the future of Los Angeles and for the region.
The DWP is the largest municipal water provider in Los Angeles County, serving 4.5 million people in Southern California. L.A. has been running out of water for a while, the county admitted in 2018, and a recent study found that LA County’s water reserves are running out by 2029.
The DWP is also the largest in Southern California, pumping more than 200 million gallons of water per day into the area. If L.A. County runs out of water, the DWP would have to make some big decisions. There are 1.8 million households in the county, and only 900 DWP customers in L.A. County. If water is shut off to many of them, that will affect the infrastructure of the Los Angeles County water system. People living in Boyle Heights will be cut off from drinking water, while residents in the northern part of the county are likely to see water shut off in their homes.
The impact could be devastating. According to data from the California Office of Emergency Services, nearly 100,000 people in the county were cut off from water during 2017 alone.
Now there is a new concern. If Los Angeles County begins to run out of water, it would become completely reliant on groundwater and aquifers for it. Many of these aquifers contain water that wouldn’t naturally run out. So when Los Angeles runs out, Los Angeles County could lose its water source. That would make it easier for the state to take over