The role of local water resources in the water sustainability of Los Angeles

Like many cities in semi-arid regions, Los Angeles relies on extensive, centralized redistribution projects for its water supply. Water is transported hundreds of kilometers to support agricultural and urban activities in southern California; however, allocations from remote sources have been declining due to drought, over-extractions, and competing water needs. Increasingly, local governments and water districts are committing to increased reliance on local water sources within the southern California coastal areas including local groundwater, rainwater capture, conservation measures, and recycled water sources. Yet, these resources are managed by a complex set of agencies and water districts with different structures, histories, and priorities, but which often access similar water resources. In addition, the jurisdictions of different water management institutions rarely correspond to watershed and other hydrologic boundaries, such that the connectivities of the socio-political system and the connectivities of the ecohydrologic system present a set of very complex networks for water flows. We are developing an analysis of the coupled ecohydrologic and decision-making processes that determine the availability of local water resources in southern California. This includes:

  • The current structure of local groundwater, wastewater, and stormwater management
  • The ecohydrologic constraints on local groundwater and rainwater resources
  • The regional water balance
  • The overlaps and disconnects between the ecohydrologic and decision-making domains
  • Feasible targets for conservation measures given our best understanding of biophysical, technological, political, and fiscal constraints, and how these are impacted by scenarios of future climate changeOur work addresses some of the most critical issues for water sustainability in the region, many of which involve decreasing southern California’s reliance on imported water.

For more information, please visit the National Science Foundation grant award page.





Photo courtesy of steveilott, license CC-by-2.0