Water in Los Angeles: where does it go?

According to the Water Education Foundation, the city of Los Angeles receives water from the State Water Project (through dams, reservoirs and aqueducts from the San Joaquin delta in the central valley of California), the Colorado River, ground water, and other water projects from Northern/Central California. All of these various sources provide water for irrigation, agriculture, recreation and drinking.

As you know, from the posts about my vacation, I visited Los Angeles a few weeks ago. As I hiked to the top of the Hollywood sign, I could see a reservoir in the distance (below), providing water directly to the city.

My photo of Los Angeles – the Los Angeles Reservoir can be seen to the right of the “H” in Hollywood

So we know where the water comes from, but where does it go? While thinking about this, I also noticed something else – the plants. Everywhere I looked, there were non-native desert plants, spanning from deciduous trees to grass.

All of these thousands of plants and acres of grass are taking toll on the usable water in this area especially, which in the future will lead to more water wars in California.

Notice the vegetation and grass in the forefront of this photo

Now, I am not saying that Los Angeles or any other desert city deserves to be barren, but I think that landscapers and those who pay for vegetation in the city should look into planting native species that take up less water in order to save the clean water for agriculture and drinking, which are the most important reasons water is necessary for people. Also, palm trees are native (in desert areas surrounding oases), so those could stay!

By planting native vegetation, the area will use less water for irrigation, saving water for drinking. Also, it will provide a better habitat and ecosystem for animals that live in this area instead of creating a place with no bio-diversity due to lack of habitat.

This is not a model that should be unique to Los Angeles, however – cities all around the United States could learn a lesson from this and begin to plant urban areas with more native trees, grasses and plants.

For more information on where water goes in California, click here.

**Update – thanks to a reader, I have changed some of the information in the first paragraph. I first stated that the water came from Hetch Hetchy, which was a little bit confusing: in reality, through my understanding, the water from that aquifer feeds into the San Joaquin delta, which feeds Los Angeles. Thus, there is not a direct connection between the two, causing the confusion. It has been changed to reflect the comment. Thanks!

4 thoughts on “Water in Los Angeles: where does it go?

    1. Hi, perhaps I did not clarify enough. I mentioned that water comes from Hetch Hetchy according to the source I used in the prior sentences (the Water Education Foundation). Also, I didn’t mention flood control as per Hetch Hetchy, and the other uses were blanketed across all of the water sources. I’m sorry for the confusion!

  1. Abbey, thanks for the clarification. You are certainly right that some of the molecules of water in the Tuolumne River pass through San Francisco’s Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and find their way to Los Angeles. But from the way the water agencies do their accounitng, the diversions made possible by the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir go to San Francisco and many in that city would be horrified to think “their” water was going to Los Angeles.

    My personal view is that these myopic water fiefdoms would do well to work better with each other and that we also need to find a way to make water systems work without the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. As many know, it is the one reservoir built in an existing National Park (Yosemite) and the once iconic Hetch Hetchy Valley was taken away from the American people 100 years ago.

    1. Yes – water law and the actual movement of water and quite different, as you also know. Law-making is slow, however, and when it comes to water, there are a lot of people involved in making changes. Before water runs out, I hope that things could change and a new plan could be made for California, among other states and areas.

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