Los Angeles is a pretty hot and dry place, and in fact, California is suffering from increasing impacts of drought, so how does the water we use every day get here?
Let’s take the journey your water takes from the source to your mouth with these 5 things to know:
- Let's start way up north for the beginnings of the State Water Project. Here is where the snowmelt from the Northern Sierra Mountains passes through more than 600 miles of pipes and canals and pump stations that reach nearly two-thirds of the length of the entire state of California to deliver just under half the water we drink here in Los Angeles.
- On average, 75% of California's annual precipitation comes in the fall. We've had a short wet season this year, which means less of the most important stuff. We get most of our water from the snow! And snowmelt is important because it's like a melting ice cube. It slowly releases water throughout the year — not all at once. It's like a water bank.
- Another massive slew of water comes from the Eastern Sierras, where the snowmelt there travels through the Owens Valley, delivered by the Los Angeles Aqueduct, more than 400 miles of it. It uses the same principles of the ancient Romans: gravity. By the way, the word "aqueduct" comes from the Latin "to lead water."
- Then the Colorado River Aqueduct provides another gulp of water, still from snowmelt, but this time from way up in the Rocky Mountains, supplying water for seven different states! That explains why the Colorado River rarely reaches the Sea of Cortez — because we're all drinking it!
- And what about the water beneath our feet? Thanks to more of that gravity: water from rain, stormwater, rivers or lakes sooner or later head downwards, deep underground percolating through porous soils forming underground reservoirs, groundwater basins or aquifers, which are then ready to tap via wells and pumping stations. Those options give us a giant supply in Los Angeles County from groundwater alone. It's delivered to us via pipes that criss-cross LA. If they were pieced end-to-end, they would be enough to cover the entire length of California nine times!
So you can see that the water we drink comes from multiple sources, but the vast amount of it is from snow high up in the mountains. And, if there's less slow-melting snow and rain in our future with warmer, shorter wet seasons, there could be even more drought ahead. Either way, it's certainly something to sit down and take a slow, thoughtful sip of cooling water and think about.