L.A.’s quest for water leaves costly bill: Higher rates for customers, choking air pollution, and the city’s need to cut its water use
In Los Angeles, water is money.
By the time this column goes to print, the water system will have incurred between $8 and $9 billion in losses from routine maintenance, leaks, and other problems.
The most important part of the cost is the cost of doing business, which is $9 billion to $13 billion. Of course, the city is responsible for most of the maintenance and upkeep of the system.
But the cost to Los Angeles is much higher than that—about $4 billion to $5 billion each year. That’s because the system can never meet current demand (with a little luck, it will stay at that level for the next year or two).
The problem is most acute in the Westside, where water use is the highest. The water system is already operating under severe operational constraints, and without more help, it’s projected to hit its annual usage limit in 2030 and then slowly decline until it hits zero in 2040. By 2060, it will be unable to deliver water to 2.6 million customers. A similar decline is projected for the Eastside and Southern California.
The situation could go much worse, because California’s water managers are hoping that a little ingenuity can be used to manage the system for as long as possible. That “possibility” was brought home again last week with the release of three studies detailing the state’s water infrastructure challenges.
This is the problem: It’s not just about a shortage of water, it’s about too much water.
This is a complicated one. If you look at the state’s four big water districts—the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the Metropolitan Water District, the Central Basin Project, and the Southern California Water Authority—you’ll notice that they all have their own problems.
The LA Department of Water