In Wet Winter, LA Captured Enough Stormwater to Supply One in Four People

Downtown LA on a cloudy day.

Downtown LA on a cloudy day. Omar Bárcena via Flickr

Since October, Los Angeles County has gathered enough stormwater to meet the demand of one in four residents for a year. Uncommonly heavy rains allowed the county to capitalize on its billion-dollar investment in storage infrastructure.

Since 2001, local officials have raised dams and cleared sediment from reservoirs in an effort to store up water that would otherwise flow out to sea. They have also expanded basins where rainwater gathers and then percolates into underground aquifers. In total, LA County has put away more than 96 billion gallons of water since the fall, enough to meet the yearly needs of 2.4 million people, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Investments in storage infrastructure will help LA cope with climate change, which is leading to both more severe rainfall and more intense drought. The county can collect more water during wet years, helping it to better weather dry spells that follow. The last two rainy seasons in LA amounted to the wettest two-year stretch in more than a century, but recent downpours aren’t expected to continue.

Looking ahead, local officials are aiming to invest more in capturing stormwater and storing it underground. “If we put water in the ground, it makes us more drought-proof, it makes us more resilient,” Martin Adams, general manager of the LA Department of Water and Power, told the Times. “We’re going to have a much bigger portion of the city’s water supply right here under our old feet.”


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