February 3, 2022 § 5 Comments
Just a quick note to add some perspective to a recent LA Times article about treated wastewater discharged into the LA River and the possibility that this could be reduced. The amount of water in the river in its “beforetimes” has been the subject of quite some argument that sometimes gets trotted out to justify modern decisions. So here’s documentation from the State Engineer William Hammond Hall circa 1877 (Emphasis mine):
The drainage of the Los Angeles river after leaving the Sierra Madre Mountains is received into the large basin of the San Fernando Valley, whose soil is gravelly and porous, but probably underlaid with an impervious substration(sic) of clay or rock , and acting as a great sponge, it holds the water it receives and gives it off slowly. This valley is shut in on the south of the coast range at the foot of which the river runs, finding an outlet through the hills by a narrow gap just above the city of Los Angeles. The streams emptying into the basin are the Paloma, the Pacoima, the Tujunga, and the Verdugo, of which the largest is the Tujunga. Like all the mountain torrents which descend from the Sierra Madre, they have a very rapid fall, and on reaching the valley spread out into broad “washes”, whose beds are composed of boulders gravel and coarse sand. In flow they flow entirely across the valley to the Los Angeles river, but in summer the water barely emerges from the mountains, and sinks from sight in the porous channels. The Arroyo Seco, another large tributary having the same characteristics as the other mountain torrents, enters the river at the city of Los Angeles.
In May last the discharge of the river at the mouth of Tujunga Wash ten miles above the city, where the upper dam of the Los Angeles irrigation system is located, was 24 ½ cubic feet per second. This amount was augmented by about 54 cubic feet per second from springs rising in the bed of the river at various points between this dam and the city. The total available supply therefore was about 78 ½ cubic feet per second. An amount which is but little diminished during the summer months.
Below the city the river is broad, shallow and sandy, and only upon rare occasions does the water ever find its way entirely to the sea, but is absorbed by the thirsty sand.-State Engineer William Hammond Hall Papers, Misc. Working Papers, General Irrigation Info, Reports- LA County (Schuyler)
Which are at the State Archives under AC 91-06-10
(Schuyler FWIW is the actual person taking the measurements and writing the notes…The dam mentioned is near present day North Hollywood. That total flow description is for flow approximately near Figueroa Street in Northeast LA – He doesn’t mention any inflow from the Arroyo Seco, so it’s hard to say if he was measuring above or below that)
It’s a shame the terms of contemporary debate are so narrow that serious people only argue about how much life support (treated sewage aka used imported water) to give the river – if any. In some parallel universe there is perhaps a dialogue being had about recharging groundwater, reconnecting floodplains, and removing or reducing the effect of dams on river flows… but for us, in this universe, we don’t even have in the English language much of a functioning subjunctive tense with which to describe the possibilities that the river (and we) deserve, without being laughed out of the room.
But the subjunctive still gives us this: Long live the river!
February 23, 2018 § 2 Comments
The Celebratory (also, yes, the Nerdy): Water LA 2018 Report
WaterLA , a project spearheaded by the River Project, champions making watershed management local. Hyper local. Your front yard local. The team there combines community outreach with effective, tested permaculture and landscape design techniques to harvest and retain water in yards and street planting strips. Rain gardens, rain barrels, grey water systems and permeable paving are among the solutions used at multiple sites across LA’s Valley. WaterLA organizers locate community members ready to pitch in and engage in work parties, so that everyone’s working together – building community while building resilience.
This year’s WaterLA Annual Report, then, is a celebration of the gains to individuals, families and our water supply delivered through participation in the project. You see, all those small projects add up to groundwater enhancement, and reductions in peak runoff when it rains – dampening the effect of most floods. The Annual Report quantifies water savings and relates project costs to other, more costly, regional approaches currently in use. Native plant and permaculture folks may be excited to see the conversions of lawns to habitat and foodscapes, community-minded folks may find some inspiration in its projects, and fiscally-minded folks may be encouraged to see creative, affordable solutions to expensive regional problems. A worthy project that would benefit all if it could be applied on a larger scale.
February 28, 2014 § 3 Comments
I just posted an article at L.A. Streetsblog that wouldn’t be out of place at L.A. Creek Freak.
It’s the first part of a series where I’ll be exploring the connections between streets and creeks. I’ll be highlighting various green street projects, this article shows off the recently opened Woodman Avenue Multi-Beneficial Stormwater Capture Project – a collaboration of The River Project and the City of Los Angeles.
November 5, 2013 § 3 Comments
As many local creek freaks know, today marks 100 years since William Mulholland presided over the dedication ceremony for the opening of the Los Angeles Aqueduct at the Sylmar Cascades where he famously proclaimed “There it is Mr. Mayor. Take it.” The City of Los Angeles and local organizations have planned a number of events to mark the occasion. A handful of them are listed below. Also below is a list of informative and/or beautiful sites dedicated to the history and significance of our relationship with the Owens Valley. As always, feel free to add anything in the comments. Thanks and enjoy!
There It Is – Take It! (a fantastic audio tour of the Owens Valley)
The Construction of the L.A. Aqueduct (some great old photos)
Today, 12:00pm: Commemorative Reenactment at the L.A. Aqueduct Cascades
The reenactment event at the Cascades is open to the media and invited guests only due to space limitations. A public celebration will be held at LADWP headquarters downtown, where a live simulcast of the Cascades event will be shown on monitors located around the perimeter of the building. Attendees can view the lobby exhibit dedicated to Water and Power history, centered on the L.A. Aqueduct, and enjoy refreshments and celebratory Centennial cake. The reenactment can also be seen live on Channel 35 or online at LAaqueduct100.com.
Today, 5:30pm: Opening of Just Add Water
The Natural History Museum presents large-scale watercolor works by Los Angeles artist Rob Reynolds, inspired by the L.A. Aqueduct that brought water to a thirsty region.
Today & Tomorrow, 9:30am – 5:00pm: Free Days at the Natural History Museum
Free admission on both days. Every visitor will receive a bottle of water commemorating the opening of the L.A. Aqueduct and have the chance to be a part of the next 100 years by signing a register destined for a new time museum time capsule.
Tomorrow through December 6th, Aqueduct Futures Project
Created in collaboration with 130 Cal Poly Pomona students who designed landscape strategies to enhance the resilience and adaptability of Los Angeles’ aging water infrastructure. Aqueduct Futures Project establishes a road map to resolve the conflict between the City and the Owens Valley. On display at the Bridge Gallery located at Los Angeles City Hall, 200 N. Spring Street, Downtown L.A. Closing reception to be held on December 3rd from 9:00am to 11:00am.
Tomorrow, 5:30pm: Time Capsule Creation at the Natural History Museum
To be held on the steps of the NHM 1913 Building. Celebrate the 100th anniversary of the L.A. Aqueduct and NHM, with remarks by civic leaders, a ceremonial lighting of the Expositon Park Fountain, and a display of materials that will be placed in a time capsule that will be opened in 2113.
November 22, 2012 § Leave a comment
A year ago, my Thanksgiving post was a tribute of sorts to an endangered species, the Vaquita marina, and a reflection on our consumption of water – an important cause of distress for this brackish-water dwelling, small porpoise:
I can tell you now, I thought that the tribute was an elegy to a dying species, the pitch for water conservation quite possibly a lost cause. But I needed to learn more, to see this in person – even if that meant dragging out the melancholy. And so, I teamed with Josh Link on a series, Explorations of the Lower Colorado River – a humbling and amazing trip in which we saw how a people’s love for a land, commitment to all species, and creativity and capability was being rewarded, poco a poco, with adjustments and agreements and funding and projects that kept some habitat on life support. But what was really needed was water for the river, for the delta.
This week, the hard work of these environmentalists in the Mexico and US border region has been rewarded: a landmark pact between the two nations recognizing the delta’s need for water, and other measures. It is a five-year treaty, so the flows are not secure. But it is an incredible beginning.
Today’s Thanksgiving celebrates an newfound abundance for a long-withered waterway, a lifeline and hope.
Congratulations, to all involved.
In the news:
National Geographic: A historic binational agreement gives new life to the Colorado River Delta
Huffington Post: An historic step towards saving the Colorado River and Delta
You can also see photos and news about the delta at the Save the Colorado River Delta Facebook page. They’ve also posted video of Mexico’s Director General of the National Water Commission talking about the pact.
June 11, 2012 § 2 Comments
It is likely that many folks living in Los Angeles County are either entirely unfamiliar with hydraulic fracturing (fracking for short) or are under the impression it occurs only in distant places such as the Appalachian Basin (Marcellus Shale). This resource extraction process utilizes the high-pressure injection of thousands (and in some cases, millions) of gallons of water, sand and a proprietary blend of up to 600 chemicals (potentially including known carcinogens such as lead, uranium, mercury, ethylene glycol, radium, methanol, hydrochloric acid and/or formaldehyde) into deep wells to open fissures that enable natural gas to flow more freely out of the well. While the practice is primarily associated with the natural gas industry, fracking is also a method used by the petroleum industry as a means of squeezing more production out of what were previously thought to be exhausted wells.
For the vast majority of Angelenos, it might come as a surprise to find out that there are two local petroleum wells, VIC-1-330 (Baldwin Hills, Plains Exploration & Production Company) and DOM-1 (Dominguez Hills, Occidental Oil and Gas), that have been fracked as recently as January of this year (SOURCE: FracFocus) and according to a recent report by Christine Shearer of Truthout, fracking has occurred in the L.A. basin for some time: « Read the rest of this entry »
May 15, 2012 § 6 Comments
On the heels of a critical piece of writing by Emily Green on the state of sediment management in Los Angeles (published in the May 14th edition of High Country News), the L.A. County Department of Public Works has completed (as of April) its draft 20-year Sediment Management Strategic Plan for 2012-2032 and is currently soliciting public comments until Wednesday, May 30th. The enormous document (524 pages) is available for download at www.LASedimentManagement.com (the downloadable document entitled “Community Meeting Boards” is a conveniently concise summary of the larger plan). « Read the rest of this entry »
May 8, 2012 § 12 Comments
Upon crossing the border threshold on foot at Los Algodones, we were met by the smiling faces of Osvel, Juliana and Isobet, the dedicated staff of Pronatura Noroeste. Our guides would prove to be among the most generous, hospitable people we have encountered in our travels. While absorbing the unfolding story of a lost river waiting to be found once again, we were simultaneously pulled headfirst into the ramifications of what we heard. Revelatory moments are scarce in an age of excessive information and we took care in absorbing a dose of pure, unadulterated perspective. At the end of the day, every blade of turf, every kidney-shaped swimming pool, every rinsed-off sidewalk, every broken sprinkler head, every drop of discarded greywater would forever hold new significance… « Read the rest of this entry »
March 30, 2012 § 14 Comments
Standing there, on the banks near a defunct stream gage, the dissonance between the earthtones of the desert, the hard greys and greens of asphalt and concrete and cars and lawn and monocultured lettuce fields, of industrial development’s footprint on the land and on this withered anemic river, whose water seemed almost still, made me a little dizzy.
But, unbeknownst to me, I was fighting a bacterial blood infection (and then some), so if my impressions seem fevered and lurid, well, it may have just been me – or Proteus OX-19.
But back to the river, and the Quartermaster’s Depot.
This, along with an old jail, are two of the oldest buildings in Yuma, on high ground, looking over the Colorado River. The Quartermaster’s is where mules were kept, hauling goods out of the steamers coming up from the Sea of Cortez (aka Gulf of California).
Is the visual of a steamship coming up this channel playing tricks with your mind? « Read the rest of this entry »
March 16, 2012 § 4 Comments
The Lower Colorado River’s been getting some good attention in the media lately(1, 2). And Creek Freak Josh Link and I have also recently been exploring the river and its issues, and look forward to presenting a series of posts on the topic.
It all started for me with the vaquita porpoise.
In 2005 I was a watershed coordinator tasked with addressing issues of water conservation in the Ballona Creek watershed. As odd as that may sound to people expecting a watershed coordinator to focus, on, say, the watershed itself, that’s how the grant worked. Chalk it up to Bay-Delta politics. That mandate, however, did me an eye-opening favor. For as much as I understood that most of our water was imported, I’d never bothered to consider how those far-away places were impacted by our big straws. A little self-education via Google’s search engine opened up a world of dessicated wildlands, endangered species, and amazement at how completely we lack perspective when we talk about water “demand”(1, 2). « Read the rest of this entry »