Much of Los Angeles' water comes from Colorado and Northern California, so it's critical we take care of our supply. But L.A.’s water infrastructure is desperately in need of being updated. In Hillside Village, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is fixing a main water break, one pipe at a time.
How do you feel when your driveway is blocked? What if it was blocked by a noisy construction crew digging a trench due to our aging water infrastructure? That’s what’s happening to these residents while workers replace 1500 feet of water mains with 6-inch pipes. A few months ago, two different blocks here flooded, so LADWP decided to replace all the pipes in the neighborhood. With the pipes in the area first installed in the 1940s, it was long past time.
"As you can see here, the sand on the side of the trench, this is from a previous water main leak," said LADWP General Superintendent, Eric Shavely.
It’s a lot like surgery for a city and L.A. is hemorrhaging water it needs. Some 29 percent of L.A.’s pipes are over 80 years old, while the average lifespan of an iron water main is 100 years.
"Currently in the City of L.A., we have approximately 7200 miles of pipe," says Shavely.
And water mains can break unexpectedly, flooding both residents and businesses.
"The water is still on to our customers. And during this installation process, the water will be turned off twice," says Shavely.
Once to flush out and disinfect the water main and another to connect it to each house. It’s a lot of work, but LA plans to spend over $1 billion towards replacing 435 miles of aging pipes, 40 percent of which were installed before the 1930s when LA’s population soared.
"The problem is never going to end. Pipes are going to continue to break and we just have to continue to update our system," says LADWP Senior Water Utility Worker, Dennis Carlson.
And that’s part of living in a city. When I spoke with a few residents, none of them seemed bothered by the noise or roadblocks. In fact, they seemed quite relieved something was being done.
"They came over and they delivered a letter letting us know what was going to go on, warning us that in case an emergency, they would have to shut off water," said resident, Minverva Arroyo.
It hasn’t come to that. And as far as Minerva is concerned, the inconveniences have been minor compared to the thought of losing billions of gallons of water.