In June I wrote about the urban planning experiment
launched by a bevy of federal, state and local organizations: the Elmer Avenue retrofit
. The Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council (LASGRWC
), Tree People
, the L.A. Bureau of Street Services and others partnered to implement the street's overhaul as part of LASGRWC's Water Augmentation Study.
Since the goal of the study is to research and demonstrate stormwater infiltration solutions to increase local water supply and reduce water quality degradation caused by urban runoff pollution, I was curious to hear Molly Peterson
, reporter for Southern California Public Radio station KPCC, share the results at Elmer Avenue
Nancy Steele, head of LASGRWC, told Peterson that water quality test results are proof positive that Elmer Avenue's new design is having an impact. Water quality is now monitored at six locations throughout its path along the street, and Steele says, "...what we found at those six locations was that water quality was either stable or improved once it got to the groundwater as a result of infiltrating all of this polluted stormwater."
Because it is a coastal state
, and a highly populated one at that, California is in a position to directly impact the ocean's ecosystem through water-borne pollution distribution (called urban runoff). Projects like Elmer Avenue and L.A.'s other Green Streets
are one method to curb the state's impact on the Pacific by containing and naturally filtering stormwater.
More pollution control measures include legislation and regulation. As in the natural hydrologic cycle
, water is filtered through a number of federal, state and local entities during its travels in the state of California. EnvironmentLA
provides information about the layers of water conservation, management and treatment at work in Los Angeles. The city's April 2009 report on Low Impact Development (LID) cites a 2008 Community Conservancy International
study that found "nearly 40 percent of L.A. County's needs for cleaning polluted runoff could be met by implementing LID projects on existing public lands."
High rainfall in the Pacific Northwest makes for a high volume of polluted stormwater to deal with. California confronts the other end of the spectrum: drought. That's why our state's LID efforts highlight native plants for landscaping. Using drought-resistant plants ensures that what water is collected will be put to efficient use. Another water-saving program
in L.A. County has people ripping out their grass and replacing it with native ground cover, succulents and more, with reimbursement of $1 per square foot of lawn removed (not to mention monthly water bill savings without that thirsty lawn to hydrate).
Water in the Golden State is a complicated piece of business — from how it gets here
to how it departs. L.A.'s LID report describes the redesign of streets, sidewalks and landscaping as "weaving the textures of nature into the fabric of the city." It also says that urban runoff is the number one source of water pollution in Southern California, which makes it an issue we can't afford not to address.