EDITOR'S NOTE: Multimedia journalist Christian Galeno spoke with a UC Irvine professor of civil and environmental engineering and assistant GM of LADWP’s water division about LA’s infrastructure issues. Click the arrow above to watch the video.
LOS ANGELES — Following an epic winter that has grown the California snowpack to historic levels, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is preparing for an equally epic runoff season. With the Eastern Sierra snowpack at 296% of normal, the municipally owned water agency for the City of Los Angeles is anticipating runoff to be 225% of normal and is implementing safety measures.
Runoff season, when temperatures increase and snow melts, typically lasts from May to June, but with an extra 326 billion gallons of water needing to go somewhere, LADWP expects runoff season to last through August.
“We have already begun managing excess flows by spreading water throughout the aqueduct system to replenish local groundwater aquifers and maximizing flows in the LA Aqueduct by emptying reservoirs to create more storage space for runoff waters,” LADWP Aqueduct Manager Adam Perez said in a statement released Tuesday.
Doing so allows LADWP to use aqueduct water instead of water purchased from other places. The agency expects 130 billion gallons of water to come to the city through the LA Aqueduct this spring and summer — enough to meet 80% of the city’s annual demand.
LADWP has multiple sources of water, 50% of which is normally imported from the LA Aqueduct fed with snowmelt from the Eastern Sierra. Another 40% of the city’s water comes from the Lake Oroville and San Luis reservoirs in the northern part of the state, both of which are currently above their historic averages, as well as the Colorado River Aqueduct that is experiencing historic lows.
The abundance of water has a downside, however. LADWP warns that a high volume of runoff will remain in the Eastern Sierra, requiring management efforts. The agency has made “emergency hires” and brought extra excavators, backhoes and water in-flow meters to areas that may need a quick response to heavy runoff.
The agency said it is also repairing diversion structures that were damaged during this winter’s heavy rain so they’re able to receive this year’s additional runoff and are repairing and dredging ditches so they can also accept more water.