PICO RIVERA, Calif. — In the Albert Robles Center, you can stay dry while it rains over LA. The Water Replenishment District's General Manager Stephan Tucker teaches the public about water in the facility's learning center.
"As we have paved over much of Los Angeles, you can see that there's not much infiltration down into the groundwater basins," Tucker explained.
The WRD serves water to 4 million residents in southern LA County, with groundwater accounting for half of its supply while the other half is imported.
Tucker, a 35-year industry veteran, is at the forefront of a new frontier in water since transporting water from hundreds of miles away isn't as reliable as it used to be due to climate change.
"We're using a lot more recycled water, we're doing advanced treatment on a lot more recycled water, and we have to develop new local storage sources of water," Tucker said.
And WRD has struck gold in the form of local storage right under its service area's feet in the South Bay. There's brackish water there that's been trapped for decades from groundwater overpumping that led to seawater intrusion. They just have to clean it.
It's called the Regional Brackish Reclamation Project, and WRD will extract and purify the water for drinking while also gaining additional underground storage.
"That'll help the entire Southern California region to build up more drought resiliency because we'll have more local storage and less dependence on imported water," Tucker said.
As California enters its third dry year, becoming less dependent on imported water is paramount.
The State Water Project announced it would not be delivering water to its member agencies until it had a clearer picture of hydrologic conditions going into the spring.
Associate Professor of Groundwater Hydrology at the University of California, Riverside, Dr. Hoori Ajami, said local water supplies are needed with climate change bringing more intense and frequent droughts.
"One noticeable feature of this past recent drought was it was warmer than previous droughts, and this has important implications in terms of water availability and snowpack supplies and so forth," Ajami said.
So while local supply is important, you also need somewhere to store the water. Surface infrastructure like dams cost billions, so utilizing what WRD already has is a priority.
"I think it's additionally important to have a great source of underground storage for protection against future droughts," Tucker said.
WRD is aiming to provide this drinking water in the next three or four years.