Yes, it seems (at least one hopes so) that the the city of Angels, that megalopolis in the Cadillac Desert, may actually be beginning to live down its thirsty (Chinatown) past and doing a teeny little bit to address its sins when it comes to profligate water use. If you don’t know much about LA’s water history, a good starting place is Mark Reisner’s excellent book on water use and abuse throughout the southwestern US, Cadillac Desert. And if you haven’t even seen Chinatown you really should see it! For now, let’s start with this overview video:
That should give you enough background to appreciate this story in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times about the gradual recovery of the Mono Lake ecosystem – and yes, even that print newspaper offers the following video to accompany the report!
Go read the rest of the story, which is a bit more cautious in its optimism than the video. After all, we are in a drought, and this is LA we are talking about, at a time when other water wars are already brewing elsewhere in California. So the Mono Lake Committee clearly still has its work cut out to ensure that the lake gets its supply of fresh water.
And now the committee may have an unlikely ally in the LA Department of Water & Power, the lake’s nemesis! Because, according to this column, also in yesterday’s LA Times, the DWP is trying to sell its citizens on the idea of recycling water within the city. i.e., treating wastewater really really well till it is safe enough to drink (and the technology exists to do that now). This is something other cities are already doing, at least to use the treated water to water lawns and such if not directly for drinking, because people may balk at that. I hope the DWP can win the PR campaign to support its new treatment plant this time around (it failed when first proposed in the 1990s). After all, how can you argue with this?
Where do you all think the water that you drink now is coming from, anyway? Angels’ butts? It comes from far and wide, and even from places that may recycle wastewater themselves. San Diego is planning its own wastewater reclamation, and as the City Council president told the Wall Street Journal, “the Colorado River is not filled with Dasani.”
So if you live in LA (heck if you live in any city living beyond its water means (that would be most cities, I think!), get behind your politicians and start pushing them (if they aren’t moving in this direction already) to bring such wastewater treatment plants to your city!
If politicians believe it, they’ve got to sell it. No one sold it better than B.T. Collins. He was Gov. Jerry Brown’s Conservation Corps director when the state was spraying malathion to stop Mediterranean fruit flies. Collins was so eager to convince Californians that malathion was harmless that he drank a glass of it in front of 900 corps members.
Nahai promised me on the radio last week that he would drink the first glass of reclaimed water to come out of DWP pipes. Antonio Villaraigosa promised me the same thing this week. One glass, two straws, please.
As for the rest of you — suck it up, L.A. How do you like it: on the rocks, or straight up?
Time for us all to suck it up, and learn to better share this planet’s limited natural resources with all the other lifeforms that have evolved here with us!