L.A. City Controller Calls for Expansion of Water Recycling Programs

Posted on October 21, 2016

Controller Galperin and Mayor Garcetti Call on State to Increase Funding, Say ‘We Must Think Big’

View the Audit Online

View the Mayor’s and Controller’s Letter

Los Angeles – In an audit released today, City Controller Ron Galperin issued a wide-ranging call for the City to increase production of recycled wastewater, a step he says will reduce the City’s dependence on expensive, imported water.

In support of Galperin’s efforts, Mayor Garcetti co-authored a letter with Controller Galperin to the heads of the California Water Resources Control Board and the State Dept. of Water Resources calling on the State of California to increase water grants and loans to Los Angeles, which would allow the City to expand its water recycling programs while reducing its dependence on imported water.

“We must think big in our water infrastructure improvements and we are asking for the State’s support in this ambitious plan,” wrote Galperin and Garcetti. “This approach will yield a positive impact on efforts to maximize local resources and will support the kind of transformational change required to meet our statewide water supply needs.”

The call for expanded water recycling accompanied the release of Galperin’s office’s audit of the Bureau of Sanitation’s Recycled Water Programs — the latest in a series of audits examining the challenges and opportunities faced by the City in response to the current, multi-year drought.

According to the audit, a major impediment to additional water recycling has been funding. For instance, water at the City’s Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant is currently only treated to meet government standards for release into the Pacific Ocean. A 2012 study suggested it would cost nearly $1 billion to improve treatments at Hyperion to a level that would allow recycled use.

Additionally, auditors noted that the Bureau of Sanitation (BOS), which operates the City’s sewer system and four wastewater treatment plants, does a good job operating its facilities effectively.

Nevertheless, 85% of the 560,000 acre feet of water Angelenos use each year is imported at great cost — most of it from sources hundreds of miles away.

“Water is perhaps the most precious resource in all of Southern California,” said Controller Galperin. “It’s essential in this era of scarcity that we wisely maximize its use, which is good for our environment and our bottom line.”

Recycled water is used for irrigation and industrial purposes. The audit noted that the City recycles only enough water to eliminate the need to import 10,000 acre feet annually. What’s more, of the approximately 400,000 acre feet of wastewater the Bureau of Sanitation processes annually, nearly 300,000 acre feet, or roughly half of all the water Angelenos use in a year — is released into the Pacific Ocean.

Currently, responsibility for water recycling is bifurcated. The Bureau of Sanitation operates the City’s sewer system and four wastewater treatment plants, while the Department of Water and Power distributes recycled and potable water to consumers. Controller Galperin called on the City to study combining some functions, a call first made in his office’s Industrial, Economic and Administrative Survey of the Dept. of Water and Power (see “Unified Water,” p. 41.)

“By exploring opportunities to consolidate some of these functions,” said Controller Galperin, “we may be able to bring a whole new level of efficiency to our water use and distribution systems, and in return, maximize our local water resources.”

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