LA County focuses on more open spaces to collect storm water

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Saturday, January 21, 2023
LA County focuses on more open spaces to collect storm water
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L.A. County has been working for decades to capture much of this water, but as we have developed and paved cities, it's harder for the water to get into the ground - engineers are working to change that.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- It has been a deluge of rain over the last weeks in Southern California - as much rain as the region normally get for the entire season.

As climate change changes, we're going to see more unusual weather, according to experts.

"We're going to be in times of extreme drought for years and then we're going to be in times, like now, where there is extreme precipitation," said Rita Kampalath, the Los Angeles County Sustainability Officer.

The storms brought five times more rain than usual in some areas of the county. A new study by the journal Nature Climate Change states the entire western U.S. could see a 31% increase in precipitation in the future.

L.A. County has been working for decades to capture much of this water. The San Gabriel River has a series of dams known as Valley Rubber dams. They can be inflated when needed to hold the water and then it's released slowly.

But as we have developed and paved cities, it's harder for the water to get into the ground. Engineers are working to change that by getting back to areas that are more open.

"This is infrastructure that people would not normally see, so we try to make use of large places that are strategically placed where we know that water will collect so even places like parks or sports field, they're being regraded, so that storm water collects in those areas and then percolates down into the ground."

Approximately, 98% of the storm water runoff from the San Gabriel River has been captured, adding up to more than 33 billion gallons. That's enough water to serve 816,000 people for a year.

Our water system was designed decades ago to bring water from Northern California and other areas. Officials said it has to change to capture more water locally.

"That's why we've had to put in these water restrictions," said Kampalath. "That's not the future that we want to live in where we're constantly having to adjust to an emergency."

County officials said they have new projects in Ballona Creek and Wilmington that would capture about 18 billion gallons of water, which could serve half a million people.