LA's high-tech, thoughtful water management is cause for cautious optimism about adapting to climate change

Southern California is almost totally dependent on Sierra snowpack and the Colorado River for its water, and both sources are endangered by climate change, even as SoCal's cycle of long droughts and catastrophic, torrential rains gets more extreme thanks to climate change.

But as Matt Simon writes, LA is actually transforming itself into something of a model city for rapid, mass adaptation to climate change: between water reclamation and desalination, the city is realizing (long overdue) efficiencies that suggest that the region might have a future after all. (As someone who recently bought a house in LA, I sure hope he's right).

Sure, the LADWP serves more than 4 million customers, so it's but a drip. But the Tujunga Spreading Grounds are just the start. A mile and a half away in a frenetic LA street is a beautified median—some nice little trees, shrubs, and dirt, with a walking path meandering through—that doubles as a spreading ground in miniature. Stormwater from the neighborhood flows here and soaks into the ground, instead of flowing to the sea.

It may only collect enough for 150 households, but that ain't bad for a single median. And the thing about medians is, LA has a few of them: The city can duplicate this project wherever the soils are permeable enough to accept water. A storm that dumps 1 inch of rain will deposit over 8 billion gallons of water on Los Angeles. (The LADWP supplies about 160 billion gallons a year.) Of course, you're not going to collect all the stormwater that falls on Los Angeles, but catchment projects like the Tujunga spreading grounds and green medians can grab a fraction that would otherwise drain to the sea.

LA Is Doing Water Better Than Your City. Yes, That LA [Matt Simon/Wired]

(Image: Wired)