With El Niño expected to hit the Los Angeles area this winter, some are asking if there is a way to turn a potential disaster into something positive by finding a way to capture and use some of the water. By using the water that El Niño provides, it might be possible to reduce the amount of water that is used from other precious sources when the state experiences its next drought. To address this possibility, the city has developed a Stormwater Capture Master Plan, with one important component of the plan being put into action this month.
The Stormwater Capture Master Plan
The Stormwater Capture Master Plan was introduced by the city earlier this year as it looked for ways to capture significantly more water. Currently, the city manages to capture about 27,000 acre-feet of water per year, with one acre-foot equaling about 326,000 gallons. This is only enough water for two households per year. Under the new plan, the city hopes to capture 100,000 to 200,000 more acre-feet of water per year by 2035.
The main idea behind the Stormwater Capture Master Plan is to gradually reintroduce collected water back into the ground so it doesn’t simply run off to the ocean. The plan also includes making small changes around the city, such as transforming streets into green streets, installing bioswales in parks and adding rain barrels or cisterns to private homes.
Moving Forward with the Master Plan
As part of the Stormwater Capture Master Plan, one house will soon be outfitted with high- and low-tech additions that will help it capture storm water. The project is made possible through a collaboration between the LA Department of Water and Power, The LA County Flood Control District, the Bureau of Sanitation and the nonprofit TreesPeople organization. Deemed the LA StormCatcher Project, the project will involve making modifications to a 900-square-foot single-family home in North Hollywood.
The North Hollywood home will receive many modifications designed to help capture rainwater. Among these will be redoing 900-square-feet of roof, which will capture an estimated 7,000 gallons of rainwater in an average year, as well as adding a 1,320-gallon “smart cistern.” The smart cistern will have the ability to anticipate rain and to adjust its collection settings in order to avoid overflowing. It will also help to improve water quality while getting the most irrigation possible. The house will also receive a new rain garden, which will be watered by the cistern. The water will then be returned to underground aquifers.
According to representatives of the project, the region could capture billions of gallons of water every year if just one out of four homeowners in LA County added the same modifications. Ultimately, the pilot will be extended to ten houses. With some researchers predicting that climate change will result in even fewer rainy days in Southern California, finding ways to provide water to the area’s residents is essential. Researchers further predict that when the area does receive rainfall, it will likely continue to be more intense and will result in more water than usual being dumped on the region. This makes it imperative for the region to find effective methods for capturing water to make it available for year-round use.
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(all data current as of 5/29/2017)
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