A Pipe’s Dream

September 9, 2009 § 1 Comment

You know, pipes just want to be springs.  They want to well up, create nice pools.  They’re tired of being all infrastructure, no beauty.  They want us humans to happen upon them, awe-struck by the gurgling bubbling water.  And for a brief millisecond we are.  We respond to the whiff of cool fresh water, and then register the pipe, the overflowing waste as it spreads and flows over lawns or infrastructure.  Or causes a big sinkhole.

And then we get mad.

The anger is inflamed by the sense of helplessness, watching that water gush on, knowing it is water wasted.  Wondering when someone will fix it.

Ravine in Elysian Park does pick up some rainfall runoff, but the broken pipe's steady flow contributed more to the creation of this stream channel.

Ravine in Elysian Park does pick up some rainfall runoff, but the broken pipe's steady flow keeps this "stream" wet.

I lived in Echo Park for nine years.  And for nine years, a broken pipe in Elysian Park has trickled water down a ravine.  Maybe it is a fire sprinkler line, but it’s the size of a big supply line.  I called the rangers once, and even mentioned it to park staff I was working on a project with.  I got no response from the former and a bit of a push-back from the latter.  It was still going on my last walk in Elysian Park, supporting a mini-forest of invasive non-native acacia and other non-native plants.  And you know how I feel about invasives.

But for some people, a broken pipe can be a lot more personal.  It can even mess with your job.  A friend of a friend (yes I’m keeping this anonymous, sorry if that’s sketchy) lives in the hills.  A water line broke behind his house.  His bathroom has now been flooded for four weeks.  Maybe a contractor broke it, maybe it’s a DWP line – either way it’s drinking water down this guy’s bathroom walls.  DWP refuses to deal with it, claiming it’s a broken sewer line.


I think anyone can smell the difference.  It happens the gentleman in question also works in the City Attorney’s office, and so fired off a letter to the DWP, reminding them of the City’s own water conservation initiatives, circumstances of the drought, and asked them to attend to this.  The reply from high up was (paraphrasing here) “you’re abusing your office by sending this letter.”

Hmmm. Well, that response – and way of dealing with the problem – takes it up a notch from what’s reported in this 1990 LA Times story,  “DWPs Response to Leak Leaves Residents Steaming”  And that’s really saying something.  That article indicates that DWP has so many water breaks to deal with that they often can’t respond to a relatively minor break for several days. They estimated that they lose 8% of their water to breaks and other losses(evaporation etc).

So the 1914-era infrastructure that just gave us a mighty sinkhole and also broke elsewhere the week before on Ventura Blvd  reflects that condition.  What’s more, Ventura Boulevard’s water lines keep breaking, sometimes in a much more exciting fashion.  In 1995 it broke and created a geyser.  With our precious imported water busting loose all over the city, maybe it’s time for an assessment of the infrastructure – and the maintenance teams.  Need I say it?  It’s not acceptable for imported water that could be keeping endangered species alive to be just gushing over our asphalt.

In the meantime, I suggest you head over to Elysian Park, hike on over to the leaking pipe and marvel at all the invasive plant life it’s supporting.


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