Dissecting L.A’s Paper Water – Recycled

One prominent member of the City of Los Angeles's 'paper water' portfolio is recycled water. Like L.A.'s groundwater supply, its Urban Water Management Plans between 1990 and 2005 had projected rapidly growing recycled water supplies that would never be realized.
Recycle Water Projections versus Actual Supply

Recycle Water Projections v. Actual Supply

The chart at the right plots the huge gap between the actual recycled water supply the city had access to and the anticipated supplies that each UWMP projected. The gap between the two is the paper water that would be used to as evidence that medium and high density projects going through the planning process would have sufficient water when in fact they didn't. For example when we look at the 1990 UWMP projections, the city expected that its program for recycle water supply would triple within 5 years and eventually provide the city with over 30,000 af/y in 2000. This never happened. When the following 1995 UWMP came out it didn't begin where the 1990 plan left off. If fact it would cite less water in 2000 than the '90 plan which suggests that the effort to increase recycled water was making no progress. Of course paper water being what it is, that plan would still suggest (with no factual basis) that recycled water would still triple, this time within 10 years and then more than quadruple to 38,000 af/y within 15 years. The next 2000 UWMP was no different, it would also start off with less water than the preceding plans had projected and then nearly quadruple within 15 years with supplies approaching 30,000 af/y.
Recycled water supply versus total supply

Recycled water supply v. total supply

Little progress meeting past targets The actual supply between 1985 and 2010 hasn't been nearly so grand as the city's expectations and glossy presentations that suggested that recycled water would help the city meet its needs.  The actual recycle water supply between 1995 and 2005 was so tiny at just 1,748 af/y and was barely perceptible on a chart. Between 2006 and 2014 the city's recycle supply would grow to just 6,410 af/y which is far below any of the past UWMP projections that ranged from 19,950 af/y to 38,000 af/y and light years behind the projected 850% increase now cited in the 2010 UWMP to 59,000 af/y by 2035. This huge gap between 'projected or anticipated supply' and 'actual supply' is an unfortunate characteristic of the city's water supply we would call paper water. It's a promise spanning 5 water plans and 25 years that was used to mischaracterize the city's supply to approve high density development. The gap has only widen between 1990 and 2015 and given the city's history of meeting its projections, I don't have much faith that it will meet the 59,000 af/y target it has set for 2035. If it could have met the much lower targets it had set in earlier plans, it would have done so by now. However the obstacles such as trying to roll out a citywide network of purple pipe were just to huge to overcome.

One Comment

  1. OtPR says:

    The 1985 UWMP was spot on. We should ask the author to predict more things.

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