Elmer Ave. in Sun Valley, Calif., is ready for stormy weather
Neighborhood retrofit project hopes to make use of stormwater runoff. Let the rains begin!
Wednesday, June 9, 2010 - 16:07
California has a history of drought. Water is, and long has been, a hot topic in our state. Many other states across the country also get parched, though: right now the interior of Louisiana is experiencing "severe" drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor; Wisonsin's Northeast region is in fiery orange "extreme" drought on the USDM's map; other affected areas include Nevada, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. And then there are the large regions experiencing merely "moderate" drought or "abnormally dry" conditions. As population continues to grow and climate change progresses, it's clear that our future is going to necessitate more extensive water conservation practices, both in our personal lives and on a societal level.
Sun Valley blazed a trail in urban planning for water resource conservation last week with the completion of the Elmer Avenue Neighborhood Retrofit Project — we'll call it Elmer Ave. for short. Part of the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council (LASGRWC) water augmentation study, Elmer Ave. was designed with water optimization in mind. Edward Belden, LASGRWC's water programs manager, says the project, with its many participants and contributors, "exemplifies the value of partnerships by bringing agencies and residents together to illustrate how low-impact development principles can be applied to existing infrastructure from the street level to the house level."
The goal of the overall study is to research and demonstrate stormwater infiltration solutions to increase local water supply and reduce water quality degradation caused by urban runoff pollution. After years of urban development, the toll on California's water supply was evident, and part of the impetus to initiate the water augmentation study in 2000. The L.A. basin currently imports about two-thirds of its water supply, and imported water is increasingly scarce — not a sustainable situation! So the idea is to utilize groundwater aquifers' unused capacity and assess whether it's possible to harness stormwater runoff to recharge groundwater supplies and cover up to one-third of the L.A. basin's annual water needs. Self-sufficiency is the mother of invention!
Which brings us to Elmer Ave. Now that the neighborhood is outfitted and fully operational, data collection begins. How much stormwater is collected and filtered for re-use remains to be seen. LASGRWC and every Calif. resident concerned about water resources will be interested to see if Elmer Ave. is a successful model for an extensive overhaul of current infrastructures. Calif.'s collage of communities, each with their own water priorities and practices, presents a challenge. What Elmer Ave. demonstrates, though, is the possibility for various parties to unite with a vision of community benefit. Lots of people are looking forward to Sun Valley's next rainy day!
Photos courtesy of LASGRWC