LADWP’s Plan to Source Water from the Sky

“LA is basically a desert.” How familiar does that sound?

Contrary to popular belief, this isn’t exactly true. In reality, our local climate is known as “Mediterranean” with warm, dry summers and cool wet winters. And…it does actually rain here, even during a drought, and even minimal rainfall generates a lot of water.

Sadly, due to LA’s existing infrastructure design, most of the rain is diverted into streets where it gathers pollution, and makes its way into stormdrains and rivers, which eventually flow into our oceans. While many Angelenos are familiar with the health risk this poses to our people, ocean and marine life, they may not be as familiar with the fact that we now have a huge opportunity to capture that rainwater and use it to sustain our communities.

Today, the City spends many millions of dollars to import water from faraway places like the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains, Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta and the Colorado River. Taking advantage of the rainwater already available can add to our resilience reducing our vulnerability to climate change, and natural and man-made disasters that threaten imported water supplies.

Introducing the Stormwater Capture Master Plan

Thankfully, the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP) is currently drafting a Stormwater Capture Master Plan (Plan) to help turn the tide – and doing so with the partnership of TreePeople and other agencies. While LADWP has been capturing water for decades, this first-ever Plan shows how much water the City can actually capture, provided we invest in and build the right infrastructure to capture it.

“This plan demonstrates how LA can transform into a water-resilient city.  For the first time ever, the City knows how much water it can capture locally, and the amounts are stunning. ” TreePeople Director of Policy, Deborah Weinstein Bloome said. “Hopefully policymakers and Angelenos will support the policies and projects needed to make the Plan a reality.”

New estimates from the models show locally captured rainfall could equate to between thirty and forty-five percent of LA’s current water demand if the required infrastructure, programs and policies are funded. Once supported, these investments could provide billions of gallons of water for public use, and decrease our reliance on imported water while also creating a boon for our economy by providing local, sustainable jobs.

The Plan’s inception dates back to three years ago when TreePeople, the County and the City saw an opportunity to create a plan to better capture rainwater and stormwater. After recommending the development of this Plan to LADWP, TreePeople worked with the Council for Watershed Health, who has been leading research on augmenting local supplies, to determine roughly how much water the City could capture. Once LADWP saw the promising results, it moved ahead with TreePeople and other agencies as a partner in the Plan, and tapped the engineering firm Geosyntec to lead and manage the project.

Together we can nurture a system to bolster the City’s local water supply and be better prepared for our dry climate.



By Jessica Jewell

Jessica is TreePeople’s Director of Marketing and Communications. A native Southern Californian, you can find her wandering local trails, hanging out with her sidekick, Penny the Rescue Puppy, on her yoga mat, reading some Phillip K. Dick, or in her kitchen cooking up vegan confections.

Jessica's professional background goes back to her time working at PETA where she worked on celebrity campaigns, and a stint in the entertainment industry, where she worked at Technicolor on their Global Marketing Team.