TreePeople Smart Water Solutions - Smart Ways to Capture Stormwater and its Benefits
I. WHY SMART WATER SOLUTIONS MATTER
Every year in Los Angeles, approximately 85% of the City’s water is pumped in from hundreds of miles away. At the same time, according to LA Bureau of Sanitation, for every half-inch of rain that falls in the City, 3.8 billion gallons of water run across streets, sidewalks, yards and roofs, picking up trash and pollution before being washed away into our rivers and ocean.
The reason for this waste is that the Los Angeles region’s water systems were born over 100 years ago. In the name of flood control and to tame nature, our predecessors engineered infrastructure to rush water down drains and into the ocean as quickly as possible. This precious and free resource goes to waste, and it harms people and the environment as it flows towards the ocean.
Massive issues like these force us to ask ourselves, “What smart water solutions are available so that I can make a difference?”
Fortunately, there are many things you can do.
TreePeople provides the smart water solutions and tools you need to learn about the benefits of capturing water, calculate your savings, build your own smart water system, and learn how these solutions have been rolled out across the region.
TreePeople is an environmental nonprofit organization whose mission is to inspire, engage and support people to take personal responsibility for the urban environment, making it safe, healthy, fun and sustainable and to share our process as a model for the world.
TreePeople has always looked to “green” infrastructure and nature-based solutions, rather than “grey” infrastructure and heavily engineered systems, to address environmental challenges. Trees are one of the key nature-based solutions that play an essential role in combating the adverse effects of climate change by capturing not only carbon emissions, but also stormwater runoff, filtering precious rain back into the ground before it washes trash to our rivers and oceans. Trees are both the lungs of our environment as well as nature’s original water capture method. In essence, TreePeople has also always been WaterPeople.
Today, we continue to embrace nature and the power of trees and other nature-based solutions as key to answering our region’s sizable environmental challenges. In fact...
Trees are key to better water management. Trees slow stormwater runoff and absorb it into the ground, preventing pollution and soil erosion.
Trees cool the city. Trees cool the city by shading the built environment, providing evaporative cooling and decreasing energy demand.
Trees create a better home for everyone. Trees make the air breathable, streets walkable, and schoolyards playable. They provide habitat for wildlife and food for people.
For decades, TreePeople has played a leading role in demonstrating that it is technologically, socially and environmentally feasible to use green infrastructure to create a local water supply source and transform our neighborhoods to be healthy and resilient. Now, faced with “climate whiplash” of historic droughts followed by historic floods and back again, it's time to move from demonstration to widespread adoption. Progressive policies and collaborative governance among communities, governments, and non-profit organizations like TreePeople can help us get there.
Transforming LA into a sustainable city takes more than grassroots change—our government needs to create policies to match our mounting environmental challenges.
We believe that 21st century green infrastructure—restoring nature and renewing natural systems—is key to solving LA's environmental challenges. TreePeople works with all levels of government to create progressive laws, policies and incentives to support this approach. Our policy work is critical for transforming LA into a sustainable city, as one law, policy or incentive can impact millions of people and their immediate environment.
Most recently, TreePeople and many partners helped create and then secure the passage of LA County's "Measure W"—an estimated $300 million annual source of funding for projects to capture our precious stormwater. Through TreePeople’s policy and research work, we were able to ensure nature-based projects are prioritized to help create a more climate-resilient region.
As California's climate whiplash continues, the need to learn about the best policies, technologies and innovations from across the globe, and to then translate and adapt them to LA only grows in importance. Australia, in particular, is recognized for its swift and strategic response to climate change and extreme weather events, providing valuable lessons for California.
In 2012, TreePeople began exchanging innovations, best practices and experiences in urban rainwater capture, water conservation and drought response between government agencies, research institutions and community organizations in Australia and Southern California.
Then, in October of 2014, TreePeople took the next step and led an American delegation of top policymakers from local, state and federal levels to Australia. The group experienced firsthand innovative approaches that can be transferred to California to ensure that our water is managed efficiently and sustainably. We are currently translating these solutions for widespread implementation in the Southern California region.
Please see the below resources for additional information.
Our youth play an important role in creating a sustainable Los Angeles for generations to come. When students have access to quality environmental education, everyone wins. In fact, the benefits extend beyond creating a cleaner healthier world. Studies have shown that environmental education has significant benefits to students’ overall learning experiences across all academic disciplines.
School campuses can be a critical piece of the urban water cycle. Through a program funded by the LA County Department of Public Works called Generation Earth, TreePeople provides a series of Water Workshops for middle and high school educators. Participants learn about where our water comes from and LA’s current water infrastructure. They also learn how to prevent stormwater pollution through the use of rain gardens, rain barrels, litter abatement and more. Attending teachers qualify for free resources including a free bus for a project-related field trip and support from a Generation Earth staff member to organize their students in environmental service learning projects tied to water.
Capturing rainwater from your rooftop makes environmental and economic sense. Rainwater captured in rain tanks or barrels can be used outside for watering plants or washing vehicles, or inside for flushing toilets or washing laundry—reducing demand for potable water. Captured rainwater can also be infiltrated through rain gardens to the region’s aquifers—increasing local groundwater supply. And more captured rainwater means less polluted runoff—helping to clean our rivers and ocean. Rain tanks also increase water security, providing an alternate supply in case of emergency.
How much can you save?
IV. DIY SECTION
Reap the benefits of installing a rainwater system at your home or office. Use one of our do-it-yourself material sheets below to get started.
Surviving Drought and Climate Change: Lessons from Australia
Vlog: Andy Lipkis Reports on Rainwater Harvesting in Adelaidev
Miracle on Elmer Avenue
Capture the Rain and Rebuild the Economy: It Can Happen Here!
TreePeople Yurt Village Rain Barrel
Cisterns Save Rainwater, Quench Environmental Thirst.
TreePeople's Green Solutions
VI: THE GREATER LOS ANGELES WATER COLLABORATIVE & STORMCATCHER INITIATIVE
The “LA Stormcatcher” is a pilot project by the Greater Los Angeles Water Collaborative; the collaborative is made up of the LA Department of Water and Power, LA County Flood Control District, and the City of LA’s Bureau of Sanitation, facilitated by the environmental nonprofit, TreePeople, with technical support from the engineering firm Tetra Tech.
In response to severe and increasing climate pressures impacting the region, these key water-related agencies have joined together to forge collaborative solutions. Greater collaboration will result in synergies and efficiencies, while building climate resilience through coordinated, multi-benefit projects.
Greater Los Angeles Water Collaborative
LA Stormcatcher retrofitted a half-dozen residential parcels with rainwater catchment systems built for the 21st century and studied the results to learn the full potential of residential rainwater capture in the region. The pilot parcels feature large cisterns equipped with cloud-based monitoring and control technology that adjusts system performance in real time based on forecast rainfall—releasing or retaining water to optimize benefits to water supply, water quality and flood prevention.
Real-time control systems function much like a smart irrigation controller, monitoring the rain forecast and releasing or retaining cistern water accordingly. Traditionally thought of as simply augmenting water supply, with the addition of networked real-time controls, cisterns can be cooperatively managed to maximize pollution reduction and flood mitigation, while optimizing water capture potential. By strategically releasing water for infiltration in advance of forecast rain, real-time controls allow for maximum efficiency and increase individual system performance by up to 200% on average. In addition, real-time controls allow for networks of cisterns to be controlled in concert and coordinated with the full suite of regional water infrastructure.
Based on the pilot findings, LA Stormcatcher used 3-D radar data to perform a groundbreaking high-resolution analysis of all 1.5 million single-family residential parcels in the region to learn exactly where cisterns and rain gardens can be placed, and to determine the potential benefits to water supply, water quality and flood prevention:
1.2 million of the 1.5 million single-family residential parcels in LA County are now suitable for rainwater capture systems.
These 1.2 million rooftops represent 17% of impervious area in the County and a proportionate amount of rainwater lost to runoff.
Capturing rainfall from these 1.2 million rooftops could:
Provide 30 billion gallons of water per year -- 10% of the County’s current residential demand.
Reduce polluted runoff by 15%, helping to clean our rivers and ocean.
Provide each home with nearly a whole year of emergency water supply for a person on average.
Reduce nuisance flooding an average 55% per parcel.
VII. GET INVOLVED
YOU can make a difference. We have a vision of a greener and more water resilient Los Angeles, but to get there, we rely on people like you to transform our region—one community, one street, one tree at a time.
Volunteering with TreePeople is fun and rewarding. Our events empower you with the support, training and tools you need to be an engine of change. Join us each week as we plant and care for trees, remove invasive species and maintain our beautiful park!
*Rainwater capture calculations are based on an average 15 inches of annual rainfall and assume industry standard collection coefficient of 0.62 and efficiency factor of 0.85. Dollar value is based on LADWP 2019 Tier 2 single dwelling unit rates.