The oft-arid nature of this city belies a subterranean water world that sometimes flows like an El Nino storm in reverse. This, of course, is what happened Saturday when a 95-year-old water main ruptured on Cold Water Canyon Avenue near Ventura Boulevard in Studio City, sending cars adrift, flooding businesses and causing an urban torrent.
Then it happened again Tuesday a few miles north: A smaller pipe rupture flooded a Valley Village neighborhood, and a responding fire engine went nose first into a resulting sinkhole. And again. And again. This morning, in the 500 block of La Jolla Avenue in Carthay Square, an 8-inch pipe broke, sending water rushing onto the street, and rendering the nearby asphalt too weak for vehicle traffic. It's at least the sixth water-main break in a week's time. Another breach was reported after midnight in the Vermont Knolls neighborhood of South Los Angeles. We asked the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power what gives. The answer isn't too settling.
“We normally get around 1,400 such incidences a year,” says DWP spokeswoman Kim Hughes. “Many are just leaks. About 200 are breaks. That adds up to about four a day. We're running normal.”
Normal? A succession of street floods in September? Hughes says that, because of the splash made by the Coldwater Canyon break, the media is suddenly hyper-aware of such everyday occurrences. The main that traverses Studio City is already being replaced, she says, with crews working beneath Whitsett Avenue. The City Council is aware, too, and will keep an eye on the city's aging water system. Councilman Paul Koretz, who represents Valley Village, said the breaks are a “wake up call.”
“It's sort of flukey right now,” Hughes says of the breaks. “Our team is looking at every causation and pipe. We take it so for granted we forget what's down there.”