Los Angeles’s Water Crisis Is a Big Deal

Los Angeles is running out of water, and time. Are leaders willing to act?

The Los Angeles Aqueduct, once the world’s longest and most powerful water system, began its massive renovation and expansion project in 1969. It ran for 1,400 miles, spanning the San Gabriel River from San Gabriel Mountains to Santa Monica Bay. In 2005, it was renamed “Fancy,” for the way its water flowed down a channel that once carried a river of life from the San Joaquin Valley to Los Angeles.

The project was a vast undertaking—and it required lots of money—but the city has been in desperate need of water since the 1940s. As the L.A. Times reported in 2014, “A decade ago, the city had not had enough water to meet the average daily needs of 300 customers.”

In just the past five years, the LA Water Company, a local government agency, has spent $24 billion on the water system, with nearly half of that going towards fixing major leaks. In November 2016, LA Water announced that it had finished the repairs and that water service would be restored once more to “previously safe levels.”

This time, though, there were concerns about that promise being fulfilled, with the Los Angeles Times reporting that “LA’s water is returning at levels that are dangerously close to the ’04 and ’05 levels before the water was shut off in April and then restored,” and that “LA Water estimates the city needs another $1 billion to return the water to what service officials say is safe levels, which will require new treatment plants, reservoirs and canals.”

It’s not just the city’s water that’s at stake, though. The LA River is a lifeline for a $1.5 billion city, and that has sparked widespread concern about the LA Water’s plans to expand the Aqueduct on the San Andreas Fault.

At a time when communities throughout the Southwest are faced with the challenges of urban development, the San Andreas Fault represents a looming threat to many regions�

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