A week of record-setting rain caused floods and mudslides across Los Angeles, atmospheric rivers to the north and a mudslide that shut down a five-mile stretch of Mulholland Drive, but there may just be a silver lining to all of those relentless clouds. As KTLA reports, Los Angeles County Public Works Director Mark Pestrella announced on Monday that recent storms have dumped 33 billion gallons of rainwater on our parched city—enough to supply drinking water for close to 816,000 people for the next year.
Pestrella has been a vocal proponent of improving stormwater capture measures. Speaking with the New York Times, he noted Los Angeles County’s new $300 million-per-year program building hundreds of water capture projects spanning the next 30 to 50 years. “It is audacious what we are proposing, and it’s gigantic,” he said.
The urgency of developing such projects should be clear. By Public Works’ estimate, last weekend’s rain alone will serve the water needs of approximately 48,000 residents for a year—and even if many Angelenos disdain tap water, no sane person refuses ice cubes.
“We’re working with our water partners to increase the region’s capacity to capture, clean and conserve stormwater runoff while investing with equity in communities through the Safe Clean Water Program,” Pestrella said in a press release.
The good news from this #LARain storm system is the water capture at #LACounty spreading grounds. Weekend rain can serve the water needs of 48,000 residents for one year—the size of a community like La Mirada, Azusa or Cerritos. Much more water is held at dams for future harvest. pic.twitter.com/nTDPCd59tG
— LA Co Public Works (@LACoPublicWorks) January 16, 2023
The Safe Clean Water Program and other water-capturing efforts are intended to offset the 100 billion gallons of water that L.A. county loses every year—enough to meet the needs of more than 2 million people. The amount of waste is staggering, particular when considering the scarcity of water brought on by California droughts, conditions that have led scientists to predict a 10 percent decrease in California’s water supply by 2040.
Though recent storms are unlikely to have an impact on long-term water problems, according to the Associated Press, the storms have played a role in slowly filling state reservoirs that typically remain below average this time of year, while also dumping snow on the Sierra Nevada.
Los Angeles County Public Works, meanwhile, has said additional infrastructure projects are expected to provide capacity to serve an additional 500,000 people across L.A. County.