By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Now, what are all these people doing? All of these people are there because we’re creating a new marketplace. DWP, when we first decided on the 20 percent by 2010, we put out an RFP [request for proposals] for the marketplace to respond to us. Most people expected we would get 10, 15 responses. We got 60. Those are 60 companies wanting to come in and provide renewable energy to the city of Los Angeles.
So, apart from the obligations that we have, both legally, and as a society, and environmentally, we also have tremendous economic opportunities here in this city.
There’s an argument out there that cutting CO2 emissions is going to cost money. What you’re saying flies in the face of that.
Not only that, but they’re not looking at what it costs not to do anything. That argument presumes that fires, floods, droughts, hurricanes — that those things don’t cost money. If you accept the premise that we’re going to be looking at longer heat waves; if you accept the fact that right here in the Southland, we’re going to be having longer fire seasons, and you start to think of the cost of having the kind of ravages that occur when these fires break out, or just the kind of lost productivity that we have when we have prolonged outages, or the effect on the health-care system, it becomes irrefutable that the cost of inaction far exceeds the cost of doing something.
We’re in a natural drought cycle right now, but we’re also facing a crisis on a number of fronts over where we get our water. The Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta, from which we get nearly half of our water, is a crashing ecosystem; the Sierra snowpack is declining, the Colorado River is in really tough shape. What is the LADWP doing to avert a water-supply crisis?
At DWP, we’re proceeding on four or five fronts. First, as you know, there have already been calls for voluntary conservation, and a rolling out of the Drought Busters program. However, just since I became general manager, I formed a water-shortage team in order to look very carefully at the resurrection and possible expansion of the prohibited-use ordinances that are already on the books, so that those get rolled out if we don’t have an exceedingly generous snowpack in the next month or two.
That means mandatory conservation.
Yes. We’re also studying shortage rates, so that if the enforcement of the conservation ordinance doesn’t yield the necessary results, we would go to the next step, to monetary encouragement — we’ll call it that.
You mean the more you use, ?the more you pay.
That means you have different tiers. Up to a certain extent, you pay a very low, really enviable rate for the water you use. Once you exceed that rate — the actual per-unit cost of the water, it’s measured in 100 cubic feet — it starts to accelerate. We already do that, but we would look at modernizing those numbers, and to the extent necessary, make them even more effective.
But shortage rates are very controversial. Just like the power-rate restructuring in City Council has become subject to so many questions. We’re not going to shy away from it just because it’s going to be subjected to political discourse. We’ll see. One step at a time.
I think we’ve also come to the realization that we need to gain ourselves at least a measure of self-sufficiency as far as water is concerned. There will never be a day when Los Angeles won’t be dependent on imported water. We use 670,000 acre-feet, and that’s with great successes in conservation. In the last 25 years, we’ve grown by a million people, and yet our water use has not appreciated at all significantly, and that’s because of innovations such as low-flush toilets and low-flow showerheads.
There’s much more that can be done there as well, such as smart sprinkler systems, waterless urinals, green buildings — the planning department just adopted a green-building ordinance, and the DWP played a very significant part in bringing that about. So, as we move to the future, water conservation and power conservation will become part of the very basic design of building.
What about recycling? Orange County just instituted a massive water-recycling program; even the West Basin Municipal Water District in the city of El Segundo recycles 50 percent of its water. But I read recently that Los Angeles recycles only 1 to 8 percent.
Actually, it’s only 1 percent. It’s not a statistic that we’re very proud of. We’re going to more than triple it in the next three or four years, but we’re going to need to be a lot more ambitious than that.
Will that include the so-called “toilet to tap” recycling?
Right now it’s just for nonpotable uses. But 30 percent of our water use is outdoors. So, out of the 670,000 acre-feet of water the city uses annually, 230,000 acre-feet is used outside. All of those sprinklers that you see going — that’s all drinking water!
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