Environment + Climate

New water-recycling plan brings L.A. closer to UCLA’s green goals for the city

The move supports the UCLA Sustainable LA Grand Challenge, which aims to transition L.A. County to exclusively local water

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Mayor Eric Garcetti at Hyperion
Courtesy Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti overlooking the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant.

In a move to drastically improve water conservation and reduce reliance on imported water, Los Angeles city officials recently announced that the city would recycle 100 percent of its wastewater by 2035.

This transition to recycled water has long been supported and in some cases advocated for by climate change and sustainable water management experts at UCLA, both through representation on the Los Angeles mayor’s water cabinet and the board of the Metropolitan Water District, and through studies. Key studies include a sustainable water management report for the city on steps to reach 100 percent local water, and a five-part research project examining the projected effects of climate change on the state’s main water source, snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

The work supports the UCLA Sustainable LA Grand Challenge, which aims to transition L.A. County to exclusively renewable energy and local water, with enhanced ecosystem health by 2050.

“The city’s new plan is moving us toward the Sustainable LA goals faster than almost anyone thought was possible,” said Mark Gold, UCLA’s associate vice chancellor of environment and sustainability.

Under the city’s plan, the amount of the city’s water supply obtained from recycled water would increase from the current 2 percent to 35 percent in 2035, according to a news release. Three of Los Angeles’ four sewage treatment facilities already recycle water to some extent. The fourth, the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant, is the largest water treatment facility west of the Mississippi and a historic culprit in the pollution of the Santa Monica Bay, Gold explained.

“The mayor’s bold and visionary announcement marks the dawn of the city’s transformation to a sustainable water management future where every drop of local water is treated as essential,” Gold said in the release. “The transformation of the city’s four treatment plants to full water recycling can supply Los Angeles with approximately a third of our annual water supply: the most critical step in making this megacity a sustainable L.A.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti co-chairs the L.A. Sustainability Leadership Council, formed in partnership with UCLA and fellow co-chair, UCLA Chancellor Gene Block.

“Conservation is about more than how we respond to a dry year — it should shape how we prepare our city for tomorrow,” Garcetti said. “Maximizing L.A.’s recycling capacity will increase the amount of water we source locally, and help to ensure that Angelenos can count on access to clean water for generations to come.”

Gold anticipates that UCLA faculty working on wastewater research, such as professors Michael Stenstrom and Eric Hoek, who are part of UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, and David Jassby, an expert on water resources engineering, could be instrumental in developing and technologies that will help make such largescale wastewater recycling facilities financially and technologically feasible.

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