Aerial view of a wastewater treatment plant just inland of a beach along the ocean, the sun reflects off the ocean.

DWP’s draft Urban Water Management Plan misses opportunities

The City of Los Angeles has made remarkable progress in reducing water use, using less water today than it did in 1970 despite population growth of 1.2 million. The people of Los Angeles, its leadership, and the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP) deserve credit for this remarkable, multi-decade transformation.

However, DWP’s release of its draft Urban Water Management Plan (UWMP) signals the potential to impede this progress and stall efforts to build a more climate-resilient water future for the city and its water resources.

The Mono Lake Committee together with a coalition of Eastern Sierra stakeholders and Los Angeles community groups submitted a joint letter recommending that DWP make changes to its UWMP to better align with Mayor Garcetti’s Green New Deal Sustainable City pLAn, an ambitious blueprint for building the city’s climate-resilient water future (see Winter & Spring 2021 Mono Lake Newsletter).

The draft plan can do better for LA’s water future

The coalition identified where the draft UWMP falls short of the pLAn vision and made specific recommendations for modifying it to better align with the pLAn goals. Notably the UWMP does not consider future local water supplies created by Operation Next, LA’s flagship effort to recycle 100% of treated water from the city’s Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant. The UWMP also falls short of acknowledging the recent historical decline of per capita water demand in the city and assumes that water use will flatline instead of continuing to decrease. Statewide, this is a frequent flaw in UWMPs that groups like the Committee are calling out.

The coalition urged that DWP provide a more realistic future water demand scenario, more accurately quantify local water supplies in planning, address equity and affordability for low-income communities, and develop and commit to a regional water management plan for the Los Angeles Aqueduct that includes Tribes, conservation organizations, and communities in the Eastern Sierra.

Interest at both ends of the LA Aqueduct

In addition to the Mono Lake Committee, the letter was signed by a diverse group of 22 stakeholders at both ends of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, including East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, Our Water LA, Amigos de los Rios, the Mono Lake Kutzadika’a Tribe, Friends of the Inyo, the California Cattlemen’s Association, and many others.

With another perilous drought year descending on California, and increasing extremes in precipitation variability due to climate change, there is no more time for complacency. The UWMP needs to set a rigorous standard for DWP to follow to achieve a climate-resilient water future for Los Angeles and the Eastern Sierra.

This post was also published as an article in the Summer 2021 Mono Lake Newsletter. Top photo of Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant courtesy of Doc Searls.