L.A. City Rainwater Program Looking for Westside Owners

July 22, 2009 § 9 Comments

City Rainwater Harvest Brochure Cover (click image for brochure)

City Rainwater Harvest Brochure Cover (click image for brochure)

The city of Los Angeles is looking for homes and businesses to help harvest rainwater! This is an exciting program for me for a number of reasons.

First off, I am happy just semantically. Agencies usually write “stormwater” – implying: perilous, foreboding, dangerous. We creek freaks, taking a lead from Brad Lancaster, usually write and say “rainwater” – implying more natural maybe even pleasant, romantic. I’m really happy to see that word rainwater in a city document, whether it’s from the city or their PR consultants (who forwarded L.A. Creek Freak a press release about the excellent program.) The language and the collaborative way the program is described signal a positive approach which bodes well.

Another promising aspect is that the program is decentralized and upstream. Often cities look at huge centralized end-of-pipe solutions: collect lots of tainted water, then pump it through an energy-intensive factory to clean it all. This innovative program aims to enlist 600 property owners to harvest rainwater on-site, before it becomes a problem downstream. Monitoring the outflow at a centralized site can be effective, and is perhaps a little more controllable, but it fosters that out-of-sight-out-of-mind attitude that has gotten us in trouble on many environmental fronts. It’s sort of like saying “pollute all you want and we’ll clean up after you.” The city’s new rainwater program involves residents collaboratively; it connects them with natural cycles. It has multiple benefits. It reduces run-off, which prevents polluted waters from impacting human and eco-system health. That reduced run-off incrementally reduces risks of flooding (that flood risk is what lead to the paving of much of local waterways.) Capturing rainwater also reduces local reliance on imported water… hence lessening the huge negative environmental impacts of pumping all that water; those impacts include global warming and ecosystem degradation to the point of species extinction.

So… what does this program actually do? The city will install free rain barrels, and will redirect downspouts so that they direct water into landscaping, instead of into a stormdrain. (Maybe the city will actually make these activities legal in the city’s building codes, someday, too? A guy can dream, no? Sorry, we now return to what I am trying to make a gushingly positive post.) It’s all made available free to the property owner, though she’ll need to sign-off on maintenance and liability agreements.

Map of Eligible Neighborhoods for LA Rainwater Program - from city brochure

Map of Eligible Neighborhoods for LA Rainwater Program - from city brochure

Right now the program is only a pilot in parts of the Ballona Creek / Santa Monica Bay Watersheds. Here are maps of neighborhoods which are eligible to participate in the initial program. They include the Jefferson Area (bounded by Jefferson, La Brea, Adams, and La Cienega/Fairfax) and the Sawtelle / Mar Vista Area (bounded by Sawtelle Pico, Bundy/Centinela and Venice.) If you own property in the pilot area, contact the city right away to sign-up!

Hopefully this program will be a tremendous success and will expand to other parts of the city and of Southern California. L.A. Creek Freak looks forward to blogging more about the success stories that will come out of the program.

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§ 9 Responses to L.A. City Rainwater Program Looking for Westside Owners

  • Shelley Luce says:

    Joe, thank you for your positive take on this program. It’s made possible by a grant from our organization (Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission) through the State Coastal Conservancy. I look at this as a pilot program that the City can try out using grant funds, and then standardize and eventually take it city-wide (yes I too can dream!). And of course, they need to change the city code on this as well.

  • vicki says:

    I’m happy to say I was the very first person to sign up with Codi for the pilot! And my water use is down to 51 gallons a day.

  • Sara says:

    I have been trying to get a rain colllection system/barrels. Hard to find and very expensive. I have a home in the Hollywood Hills and really could use this to avoid flooding of certain areas as well as water other areas. We are in need of keeping trees and plants thriving (due to fire dangers) yet due to drough, we are not allowed to water. I do not live in the “pilot program” area is there anyone I can talk to to get soem help ?

    • Jessica Hall says:

      Hi Sara, have you tried talking to TreePeople? They are in the Hollywood Hills and have done interesting cistern/rainwater capture projects in the lowlands (the Hall House) as well as at their own facility. There are underground storage units that can be installed for rainwater capture, but a lot of people use good ol’ plastic trash cans. Of course, the challenge with cisterns of any kind is that the water gets funky pretty quickly. If I come across any additional info I’ll post it, but definitely TreePeople would be a good resource for you.

    • Joe Linton says:

      Sara – For cheap do-it-yourself rainbarrels, I’d recommend Homegrown Evolution’s website with instructions for building a rain barrel:

      There’s also good rain barrel information in their book: The Urban Homestead – and they sometimes teach workshops on stuff like this.

      If you’re looking to do something bigger than a barrel, I’d recommend the book ‘Rainwater Harvesting for the Mechanically Challenged” by Suzy Banks. It’s about ways to do rainwater harvesting cisterns.

  • […] to Homegrown Evolution’s first podcast, where L.A. City’s Wing Tam and I speak about the city’s rainwater harvesting program. The stormwater story fills the second half of the hour-long audio […]

  • Joe Linton says:

    The program area has now been expanded. The city’s site ( http://www.larainwaterharvesting.org/ ) now states:

    “… ALL properties located in the Ballona Creek Watershed are encouraged to apply as the program will soon begin accommodating some of those outside the pilot areas listed on a first come first served basis”

  • […] may have already seen us highlighted in some of our favorite and trusted blogs including L.A. Creek Freak, Green LA Girl, Mar Vista Green Gardens Showcase, LAist, Chance of Rain, Apartment Therapy, Inspire […]

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