Raising awareness and funds for LA’s “liquid gold”

By Abner Galino

Mark Pestrella of LA County Department of Public Works (holding a microphone) stresses a point while LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis (seated second from left) listens. Photo © Abner Galino

LOS Angeles county in southern California is a water-scarce area. The county has to buy around 60 % of its drinking water from northern California, the Colorado River, and from other states.

In fact, around 200 water retailers bring drinking water into LA household faucets at a great price.

While it does not rain so much here in the South land, storm water remains our cheapest and plentiful source to restock our water reserve. Unfortunately, the region’s asphalt and concrete landscape has not been engineered to catch and store the precious storm water that falls from our sky.

“We lost around 100 billion gallons of water from last year’s storms alone,” reveals Director Mark Pestrella of the LA County Department of Public Works during a forum on at the Japanese American Cultural Center in downtown Los Angeles last week.

“I can’t even imagine how many bottles of Sparkletts gallons it would fill,” iterates LA County Supervisor Lydia Solis during her turn to speak, adding the such of lost precious resources results in the people paying for more for their water needs.

Solis noted that when rainfall comes, most of it funnels down to hundreds of miles of concrete channels to the Pacific Ocean, even creating problems for beach goers and environmentalists.

According to Council for Watershed Health staff scientist Ariane Jong, untreated storm water or urban runoff,, carry debris, chemicals and toxins into the sea.

Jong added that even chemicals that may look harmless such as fertilizers could spur abnormal algae growth in the sea and could result in fish kill and other harmful effects on marine life.

The LA County Board of Supervisors has directed County departments to identify appropriate funding mechanisms “to enable communities to capture every single possible drop of water, better manage our existing supplies, protect our beaches and oceans from contamination, create greener neighborhoods and parks and improve coordination among relevant government agencies.”

Roxana Tynan, LA Alliance for a New Economy deputy director, attested during the forum that the county’s storm water plan, dubbed as the Safe, Clean Water Program, is expected to generate career jobs, aside from regular jobs.

LA County Dept. of Parks and Recreation deputy director for planning and development Alina Bokde said that in the process of building the infrastructure to capture storm water as soon as it hit the ground, additional green spaces are also created which complement the department’s thrust of improving recreational and healthful facilities for people.

However, as most of the resource speakers at the forum noted, while the Federal Clean Water Act has been compelling local governments to put up high quality standards for water, there has been no funding that comes to complement the mandate.

At the moment, LA County and the LA County Flood Control District are working to “identify funding and opportunities to share costs with other agencies.”

A potential funding measure to implement the Safe, Clean Water Program is under consideration. When finalized, the said funding measure will be presented for approval of LA County residents through the ballots.

Other resource speakers who attended the forum were J.R DeShazo, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) chair of Department of Public Policy; Elva Yanez of Health Euity, Prevention Institute director; and Thomas Wong, president of San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District Board.

Abner Galino
The author is a poet and a writer. He was a cultural worker before he became a reporter for Tinig ng Masa and Malaya Midday Edition during the Marcos regime. He later became a reporter of People's Tonight shortly after 1986 EDSA Revolution. He went on to become its Chief of Reporters, City Editor and News Editor. He retired after 15 years in the Journal Group of Publications. He now writes for Weekend Balita and the US Asian Post (USAP), weekly Filipino-American newspapers based in Los Angeles, California.

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