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Water Quality at the Heart of Measure W
Water Quality at the Heart of Measure W Image

After years of drought, Californians recently received some encouraging news. Thanks to two years of above-average rainfall, the Golden State is officially out of the drought, and the Sierra snowpack is currently at 200% above average. We are all breathing a sigh of relief, but we also understand that this respite may be short-lived. With California’s feast or famine history of dry spells and El Niño years, we instinctively know that the next drought is just around the corner, and we need to prepare. Driven by water quality mandates set forth by the Los Angeles Regional Board we recognize the need to do a better job of cleaning up our polluted creeks, rivers, and beaches. We know that we need to do more to improve the quality of our rainwater runoff in order to increase its beneficial uses. We understand that in order to create a sustainable future, our waters need to be clean for supporting healthy ecosystems and providing safe public recreation. And we need to reduce our reliance on imported water.

It may have been that realization that led 69% of LA County voters – in the city of Los Angeles that percentage increased to 75% – to approve Measure W, Los Angeles County’s Safe, Clean Water Program, last November.

As you may be aware, here in Southern California we lose tens of billions of gallons of water every year during our rainy season. Rainwater that falls on streets or paved surfaces flows into our creeks, lakes, and rivers and ultimately into the Pacific Ocean. We’re making good progress towards capturing and cleaning that precious resource for use.  During last year’s rainy season, LA Sanitation & Environment projects captured 2.5 billion gallons of rainwater. A few examples of the City’s multi-benefit projects leading the way in rainwater capture are the Echo Park Lake Rehabilitation Project, the Machado Lake Ecosystem Rehabilitation Project and the Albion Riverside Park. And future projects are planned. Once complete, the Rory M. Shaw Wetlands Park in Sun Valley will have the potential to capture 590-acre feet of water (approximately 190 million gallons) annually. Earlier this year Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that LA’s Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant will recycle 100% of its wastewater by 2035. These are all vitally important steps towards improving water quality and creating a sustainable water future here in LA. But we need to do more.

Measure W helps us do that.

Measure W creates a tax of 2.5 cents per square foot of impermeable surface on a property owner’s parcel. In Los Angeles County, it will generate approximately $300 million annually for capturing, cleaning and managing stormwater with the goals of

  • improving water quality and ensuring compliance with federal water regulations
  • creating a resilient and local water supply through capture, infiltration and reuse and
  • developing enhanced community investments in the areas of flood protection, environmental justice, ecosystems, and our local workforce.

Measure W’s regional program, which will receive up to $150 million annually across the County, will focus on infrastructure – designing, constructing and operating large-scale stormwater water quality improvement and capture projects. The City of Los Angeles will be competing for a portion of these funds to pay for regional multi-beneficial projects in our watersheds. At the local level, Measure W’s municipal program will provide approximately $38 million annually to the City of Los Angeles for the development of multi-beneficial projects to improve water quality in all LA watersheds, capture rainwater and replenish groundwater supplies, address climate change challenges and create more green space, habitat and recreational opportunities for Angelenos.

The types of projects that Measure W will fund will be similar to the water quality improvement projects and programs that LA Sanitation & Environment has been overseeing for decades. Current LA Sanitation & Environment projects already address many of the environmental issues identified by Measure W. These award-winning projects and programs can be found citywide and run the full spectrum from large-scale multi-million dollar water quality improvement and reclamation endeavors to the daily duties and responsibilities necessary to keep Los Angeles and its environment clean.  Collectively, these LA Sanitation & Environment projects protect public health and the environment and have steadily improved the quality of Los Angeles’ water over the last 30 years.

The operation of the City of Los Angeles’ storm drain system is regulated by the Municipal Stormwater Permit which was adopted by the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board in November 2012. LA Sanitation & Environment is the holder of this permit on behalf of the City of Los Angeles. Measure W funds will provide LA Sanitation & Environment with the opportunity to build more water quality improvement projects across our city, improve the water quality of Los Angeles River, Ballona Creek, and Santa Monica Bay, and bring Los Angeles closer to compliance with water quality mandates. A portion of Measure W funding can also be used for the operation and maintenance of our existing facilities. These water quality endeavors have contributed to the recognition of LA Sanitation & Environment as a national leader in the area of environmental services.   

LA Sanitation & Environment looks forward to collaborating with our elected officials, city government representatives, the Department of Water and Power and other sister departments, and community stakeholders to develop and operate innovative, state-of-the-art Measure W-funded programs and projects and lead Los Angeles into an environmentally sustainable new century. With water quality at its heart, Measure W marks the beginning of a bright water future for Los Angeles.

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Comments(5)
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John Schweisinger says:
June 27, 2019 14:22 PM

What a great way to save water and improve the environment. Great Job Everyone! If you want to view more about the Los Angeles Storm Drain System and how pollution control is import; watch the Video “Visiting with Huell Howser; L.A. Storm Drains 1994-98” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_a6c9dO46A

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E Miron says:
June 27, 2019 14:35 PM

Too many people like my self are on small ssi incomes. We can’t afford new taxes or we could lose our homes. We already pay more tax than 98% of the country,we should not have to pay more for the basic things we should already have.

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Joyce says:
June 27, 2019 15:27 PM

Thanks, John, for a walk down memory lane. I remember when they did this episode. I used to work with Chuck, Scott, Mike and John when they were part of the Stormwater Management Division. Ammar still works in our division and we are now the Watershed Management Division. I always enjoyed watching this Huell Howser episode. He did a great job of explaining the City’s storm drain system.

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Maria Hernandez says:
June 28, 2019 17:12 PM

Other than cost, why is replacement of asphalt streets with impermeable pavement? L.A.’s bountiful underground streams and ground water reservoirs have been disappearing and almost totally gone. Asphalt streets and surfaces do nothing but send water into the ocean. WHAT A WASTE OF WATER. Why wasn’t impermeable pavement part of Measure M?

Shouldn’t the City and water departments provide a strong financial incentive to businesses and homeowners who convert their concrete surfaces to impermeable ones? How about starting with replacing our rotten sidewalks with impermeable pavement?

Why, why, why not? Cost is not an acceptable answer.

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LA Stormwater says:
July 01, 2019 09:04 AM

Hello Maria: Thanks so much for your comments. We agree that permeable pavement is a great way to infiltrate rainwater. It is our understanding that Measure W will provide financial incentives to property owners who provide more infiltration opportunities on their property and permeable pavement is one way to achieve that. Measure W is still very, very much in its infancy stage. Be assured that permeable pavement WILL be included in future Measure W efforts. If you’d like to learn more one project the City of LA is doing in partnership with the Trust for Public Land to create more opportunity for stormwater infiltration, please check out the South LA Green Alley Master Plan in South LA. Here’s the link: https://www.lastormwater.org/green-la/south-la-green-alley-master-plan/

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LA Stormwater says:
July 01, 2019 09:04 AM

Hello Maria: Thanks so much for your comments. We agree that permeable pavement is a great way to infiltrate rainwater. It is our understanding that Measure W will provide financial incentives to property owners who provide more infiltration opportunities on their property and permeable pavement is one way to achieve that. Measure W is still very, very much in its infancy stage. Be assured that permeable pavement WILL be included in future Measure W efforts. If you’d like to learn more one project the City of LA is doing in partnership with the Trust for Public Land to create more opportunity for stormwater infiltration, please check out the South LA Green Alley Master Plan in South LA. Here’s the link: https://www.lastormwater.org/green-la/south-la-green-alley-master-plan/

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