LA's water bucket needs a LID as well as a cork...

Tree and mulch as part of Low Impact DevelopmentCongratulations to the city of Los Angeles' Board of Public Works for taking the first step towards conserving our city's rainwater by passing a Low Impact Development [LID] plan.

This puts us on the path towards water sustainability. It still needs to be approved by the City Council, but this alone is a big step forward.

LID's primary aim is to protect water quality, but its tools can calibrated to substantially augment the supply of water for landscape irrigation, which comprises 40% to 70% of Southern California's overall use, and thus free up a substantial amount of water for the city and its residents.

While enacting a LID ordinance into law will be a critical step, the desired results and changes will occur over decades, not months or years. If Los Angeles is to respond to the threats to its health and viability posed by climate change and the long term water supply emergency, we will need to accelerate this retrofitting process.

Accelerating LID implementation represents the fastest, best way to establish a sustainable clean water supply for Los Angeles.

Just as the low-flush toilet and other energy and water conservation programs were substantially accelerated by  financial and other incentives, creating an aggressive incentive program can speed the way. LID uses a combination of natural landscape approaches integrated with rainwater harvesting technologies to capture, filter, store and use rainfall. Installing and maintaining these is labor intensive, making a rapid scale-up a very good investment in mitigation of our economic crisis as well.

In years to come, the Colorado River water supply could decline, the experts say, by as much as 40%. At a forum on water issues hosted by the Australian embassy this month, Brad Udall, who heads up a Western regional water research division at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, said about water in the Southwest:

It's like the banking crisis. You can see the problem coming, and you can decide to hope it will go away, or will happen on some one else's watch, but at some point in time, we're going to have to solve this.

Here's a chart from Udall's presentation showing expected reductions in water run-off nationwide.

This is just one reason why we need to accelerate implementation of LID -- now.

The red portion of the map represents a forty-percent decline in run-off; the yellow a twenty percent decline by 2040. From Brad Udall, of the Western Water Assessment.

Chart of changes in water run off in the West