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WRD Board President John Allen: Adapting to a New Normal

August 5, 2021

By Water Replenishment District Board President John Allen

With wildfires raging across the Pacific Northwest, historic flooding in Germany, and our state’s dire drought conditions it is clear that our climate and environment have been drastically changed. With Governor Newsom’s recent drought declaration came a call to action for Californians to reduce their water consumption by 15%. As drought conditions worsen across California, it is clear that we are all in this together. Fortunately, WRD has proactively worked on addressing the drought even before it became the new normal.

 

 

The Water Replenishment District’s service area includes 43 cities in Southern Los Angeles County.

 

Our region has two main sources of drinking water: water extracted from giant underground aquifers and water imported from the Bay Delta and Colorado River. Since 1959, WRD has managed two of these groundwater aquifers that hold billions of gallons of fresh water pumped from the ground by your water provider and sent to your tap. If you live in the WRD service area these aquifers are literally right under your feet.

WRD’s service area encompasses 43 cities and 420 square miles in southern Los Angeles County. The over 4 million residents in this region that consume about 250,000 acre-feet (82 billion gallons) of groundwater every year. This accounts for approximately half of the region’s water supply. The other half is imported from hundreds of miles away using a series of aqueducts, reservoirs, and canals. Sixteen years ago, the Water Replenishment District and our partner agencies embarked on a program that would help our region be sustainable even in dry years by maximizing the capture of stormwater and using advanced treatment technologies to reuse recycled water.

WRD’s Water Independence Now Program (WIN) was conceived to reduce the strain on imported water and ensure that we had a sustainable source of water used for groundwater replenishment. That vision was fully realized in 2019 when we opened our cornerstone project, the Albert Robles Center for Water Recycling and Environmental Learning (ARC) in Pico Rivera.

At ARC, WRD takes 14 million gallons per day of treated recycled water from the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts and further cleans it using advanced treatment technologies. By law, we are required to send this water to the groundwater basins where it mixes with billions of gallons of fresh water before it is pumped out by your water provider and sent to your taps. Before ARC, some of this reused water was cleaned to federal and state guidelines and then sent down the San Gabriel River and into the ocean. Still, some of this recycled water is used for irrigation all around us. The success of WIN has shown that an important tool in combatting water shortages is recycled water. Now WRD is working on other innovative solutions to our drought emergency.

 

WRD’s Albert Robles Center in Pico Rivera, CA

 

Underlying some South Bay Cities lies a giant plume of brackish groundwater. This was caused decades ago when too much groundwater was extracted from the groundwater aquifers allowing ocean water along the coast to seep in. This water is safe but too salty to drink. Through our WIN 4 All program, WRD is working with our partners to take billions of gallons of this water, extract the salt, and send the treated water into the drinking water system. The benefits of this are twofold: providing clean drinking water for residents AND creating extra storage space underground to save water for dry years. We know that this project can be successful because the district is already doing this effectively on a smaller scale in the city of Torrance at the Goldsworthy Desalter.

As we continue to face the problems caused by climate change rest assured that WRD is working hard to further drought-proof our region’s water supplies.

 

John Allen, a former senior official in the LA County District Attorney’s office, is president of the Board of Directors of the Water Replenishment District, an agency that manages the groundwater supplies of south Los Angeles County.

 

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