December 24, 2010--In a region that imports water, much goes to waste (Los Angeles Times)

It is one of the Southland's enduring contradictions. The region that laid pipe across hundreds of miles and tunneled through mountains to import water also built an extensive storm drain system to get rid of rainfall as quickly as possible. That's exactly what happened during the last week, when tens of billions of gallons of runoff that could lessen the region's need for those faraway sources were dumped into the Pacific. Enough water poured from Los Angeles streets to supply well over 130,000 homes for a year. As Southern California's traditional water supplies diminish under a variety of pressures, all that runoff sheeting across sidewalks and roads into the maws of storm drains is finally getting some respect. "This isn't wastewater until we waste it," said Noah Garrison, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council who co-wrote a 2009 paper on capturing and reusing storm water. The report concluded that the region could increase local supplies by an amount equal to more than half of Los Angeles' annual water demand by incorporating relatively simple water-harvesting techniques in new construction and redevelopments. These include installing cisterns and designing landscaping to retain runoff and let it seep into the ground. Los Angeles is poised to adopt an ordinance that takes a step in that direction. Most new and redeveloped commercial, industrial and larger apartment projects would have to be designed to capture the runoff generated by the first three-quarters of an inch of rain. New single-family homes would have to install a rain-harvesting device, such as a rain barrel or a hose that diverts water from gutters to landscaping.

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