Adapting Urban Water Systems to Manage Scarcity in the 21st Century: The Case of Los Angeles

S. Pincetl, E. Porse, K. Mika, E. Litvak, K. Manago, T. Hogue, T. Gillespie, D.Pataki, M.Gold


Acute water shortages for large metropolitan regions are likely to become more frequent as climate changes impact historic
precipitation levels and urban population grows. California and Los Angeles County have just experienced a severe four year
drought followed by a year of high precipitation, and likely drought conditions again in Southern California. We show how
the embedded preferences for distant sources, and their local manifestations, have created and/or exacerbated fluctuations in
local water availability and suboptimal management. As a socio technical system, water management in the Los Angeles
metropolitan region has created a kind of scarcity lock-in in years of low rainfall. We come to this through a decade of
coupled research examining landscapes and water use, the development of the complex institutional water management
infrastructure, hydrology and a systems network model. Such integrated research is a model for other regions to unpack and
understand the actual water resources of a metropolitan region, how it is managed and potential ability to become more water
self reliant if the institutions collaborate and manage the resource both parsimoniously, but also in an integrated and
conjunctive manner. The Los Angeles County metropolitan region, we find, could transition to a nearly water self sufficient

Published Work | 2018 | Environmental Management

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