Replacement Water: Helping Los Angeles Find Better Solutions
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Replacement Water
Helping Los Angeles Find Better Solutions

MLC staff and board at LA's East Valley Water Reclamation Plant.As a direct result of the Committee's efforts, both state and federal governments have provided Los Angeles millions of dollars in matching grants to help build water reclamation plants and to help finance conservation in Southern California, stipulating that DWP agree to credit the water created to Mono Lake's protection. The Committee continues to work with Los Angeles on becoming more water independent, seeking funding and public support for reclamation projects throughout the Southland which will help ensure Mono Lake's long-term protection.

Replacement water supplies are typically compared to Mono Basin diversions on an acre-foot to acre-foot basis. However, it's significant to note that conservation by Los Angeles residents in recent years has made LA's water supply stretch farther than ever before. In fact, despite growth of a million people between 1975 and 2005, LA's water usage (of about 600,000 AF/yr) had not changed. As a result, replacement supplies will, in the future, serve even more people than past diversions from Mono Lake.

Sources of LA's Water Supply



  • Reclamation PlantIn 1989 the state legislature passed AB 444, establishing a $60 million fund of investment capital to help Los Angeles build water reclamation and conservation facilities (DWP did not apply for this money until 1994, by which time only $36 million remained). The bill was intended "to benefit Mono Lake's ecosystem and contribute to the permanent protection of the Mono Basin environment."
  • In 1992 the Western Water Bill, H.R. 429, was signed into law. It authorizes a contribution of federal money for "a project to develop 120,000 acre-feet per year of reclaimed water in Southern California (which) is expected to offset water diversions from the environmentally sensitive Mono Lake Basin."
  • In 1995, the city received about $10 million to support water reclamation and conservation development.

Reclamation Sources:

West Basin reclamation facility. 100,000 acre-feet
East Valley reclamation facility 35,000 acre-feet
Conservation, other reclamation sources 6,250 acre-feet
Total 141,250 acre-feet



Several task forces have moved forward with plans to price and manage water in more environmentally sound ways. The Mono Lake Committee was part of the Los Angeles Mayor's Blue Ribbon Committee on Water Rates which in 1991 set new, conservation- based rates for the city. The Committee is also on the steering committee of the California Urban Water Conservation Council which helped negotiate an agreement between urban water agencies throughout California to "consider water conservation on an equal basis with other water management options." The Council developed a list of "Best Management Practices" for water conservation which saved 700,000 acre-feet of water annually by the year 2000 in Southern California alone.

The Committee also works in Los Angeles with other groups belonging to the Los Angeles Water Conservation Council, like the Mothers of East Los Angeles, which carry out the work of water conservation, and operating programs like the Ultra-low-Flush Toilet Distribution Program until it ended in 2006. The toilets distributed through the program now save 43,000 acre-feet of water each year—1/2 the amount LADWP historically exported from the Mono Basin. By making Los Angelenos aware of the source of their water supply at Mono Lake with these and other programs, the Committee hopes to maintain support for Mono Lake at both ends of the aqueduct.

In 1991 alone, LA saved three times as much water as is needed for Mono Lake.


Water Policy Resources

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Water Conservation Tips

Replacement Water for LA

There is No New Water

Stepping Outside the Box: A Short History of Water in Southern California

Lessons Learned at Mono Lake

The Southern California Water Picture as of 2003

Waste Not, Want Not: The Potential for Urban Water Conservation in California

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