Category: L.A.’s Water Plans

LADWP’s Paper Water Leverages on MWD Supplies

Published / by dcoffin / Leave a Comment

When the LADWP uses paper water, not only does it affect Los Angeles residents, it also impacts utilities and residents outside of the city. 'Paper water' is water that “utilities claim they have access to, but is difficult or impossible to access for various reasons”.

When the LADWP claims to have access to more city owned domestic water than it really has access to, that allows the department to understate how much water it needs from the Metropolitan Water District.   

MWD Makes up for LADWP Paper Water

Using paper water to prop up the perception of its domestic supply, the 2000 UWMP* suggested that the LADWP would only need to purchase and additional 3.53 million acre-feet of water between 2000 and 2015.

However the department was unable to follow through on its claims. Only 4 times in 16 years did the department meet its own projections. Over the other years it had to purchase 47% more water from the MWD amounting to 5.20 million acre-feet at a greater unit cost. 

This is one of the ways that the department hides the water shortage in the EIR's that work their way through the planning process to shield development.

Obviously this practice would impact the MWD's operations to store surplus water as a hedge against drought in its Diamond Valley Reservoir and at Lake Mead.

*I used the 2000 UWMP because it presented a larger sample size of MWD purchases than later plans would. Later UWMP's use paper water similarly.  

First Looks: The LADWP 2015 Draft UWMP – Hiding the Shortage

Published / by dcoffin / Leave a Comment

After spending a few weeks paging through the just released LADWP 2015 Draft Urban Water Management Plan, my immediate conclusion is that the plan is a thinly disguised effort to hide the city’s low water supply levels from the planning process to protect development.

This draft, like past UWMP’s, continues to project levels of water in all supply categories that the department does not have access to and it continues to assert access to water in categories that aren’t really a supply such as Conservation and Harvesting.

California law requires that utilities update the UWMP every five years to demonstrate long term water supply availability before approving new projects. This task has become tougher to prove as the regions grow and various interests throughout the state assert their rights to the state’s water supply. The department compounds the problem even further when it reports to planners and developers that there is sufficient water for growth despite the shortage.

In 2010 the LADWP found that totaling up aqueduct, groundwater, recycled water and MWD water was no longer adding up to the total supplies it needed to show as evidence of sufficient growth. To solve this problem, it began to look for new ways to produce water. Some categories were real such as stormwater capture and indirect potable reuse but other categories were simply fuzzy water meant to artificially raise the total supply using paper water.

A Line-by-Line look at the Future Water Supply Projections

The following is a line by line look at the supply projections in the draft's Service Area Reliability Assessments table. I’ll show where the real water is and what’s vulnerable to challenge.

Conservation

I’m going to be blunt. Conservation is not a supply. Conservation should be used to lower the baseline demand and from there, the department should demonstrate how it will meet that. However, the department uses Conservation as a supply to merely to bump up the total supply figures shown in the Service Area Reliability Assessment tables to present a UWMP that's favorable to planning documents.

conserv

 

The department’s 2015 draft shows Conservation as an existing or planned supply that will contribute up to 125,800 Af/y to the city’s water portfolio. But simply put, this is ‘paper water’.  This is done to hide a portion of the total shortfall the department doesn’t want seen in Environmental Impact Reports that are attached to projects for review by the planning department.

There is a simple test to see if Conservation (or any other category of water) is real water or imaginary water. The 2009 California Water Plan Update describes ‘paper water’ as water that “utilities claim they have access to, but is difficult or impossible to access for various reasons”. 

Using that definition in our test, if we eliminate all of the city’s real incoming sources of water such as the aqueduct, groundwater, recycled water, stormwater, and MWD water, and leave the city with only Conservation, how much water would the city have access to and available to use?

None. The leftover 125,800 AF of 'water' the LADWP claims it has access to is not accessible.  You can’t wash your hands with this water and you cannot sip it from a glass. Consequently, it's paper water and not a supply.

2015CSVPaperAsserting that ‘Conservation’ is a water supply allows the department to manipulate the UWMP's supply projections, making it appear that the city’s total available supply will be 611,800 Af/y in 2020 and grow as high as 675,700 Af/y by the year 2040.

However, when we remove this imaginary water from the table, the departments total projections fall to a dismal 536,370 Af/y and over time it grows to just 600,770 AF/y by 2040. This is would fall more in line with the city’s historical supply.

I’m sure the department sees another benefit to asserting that Conservation is a supply. It doesn’t have to report the actual results like it does with real water from the aqueduct, groundwater, MWD, and recycled water which are all measured as they enter the water system.

Putting Conservation on the supply side of the equation creates a fuzzy math scenario of future water supply that does not belong in documents that rely on the UWMP. The department is basically saying, ‘IF the public reduces it gallons per capita daily by 50%, that’s like increasing the supply to 638,235 AF/y’ or ‘IF the public could meet 100% of the city’s projected conservation level, that would be the same as reaching 675,100 AF/y.

Prior to 2010, the city had always deducted conservation savings from the baseline demand side and calculated the required supply from there. If it did this here, the projections would be in the range of 536,370 to 600,770 AF/y. The department would then have to provide a plan to explain how it will get the city to reduce its per capita supply from 130 gallons per day to just 95 gallons per day.

Aqueduct

aque

 

The next supply item in the planned supply table is the Los Angeles Aqueduct. Sadly, the LADWP no longer finds William Mulholland’s engineering marvel worthy of top billing anymore. Instead it appears that the department wants optics on something called ‘Conservation’ in the UWMP even though that’s not real water like the aqueduct. It’s important to note that the Los Angeles Aqueduct continues to be the city’s largest owned producer of water in the city’s supply portfolio.

2015AquPaper2007This item in the Draft 2015 UWMP uses paper water in the Los Angeles Aqueduct projections to hide 68,030 to 85,730 AF/y of the city’s total supply shortage.

The draft does this by seriously over estimating how much water is available through the aqueduct.

It’s nothing new however. The departments past UWMP’s had projected upwards of 380,000 acre feet of water per year entering the system. This draft cites up to 293,400 Af/y is still far more than the aqueduct’s actual average supply of just 207,670 AF/y between 2007 and 2012.  (To be fair, I’ve purposely excluded the last three years due to the recent drought.)

There is no reason to believe that future aqueduct supplies will average higher than 227,000 Af/y even if the department is able to lower the amount of water needed to mitigate Owens Basin dust levels.

Groundwater

ground

 

The next major source of water supply and third on the list is Groundwater. Like every UWMP before it, the Draft 2015 UWMP continues citing far more access to groundwater than the department really has access to.

2015GWPaperThis conclusion is made by comparing the actual measured groundwater supply that has averaged just 74,390 AF/y between 2000 and 2015 with the departments Draft 2015 UWMP projections of 112,670 to 114,070 AF/y. Anything more than 74,390 AF/y is paper water which is used to bump up the total supply and hide the departments shortage in planning documents.

From a historical perspective, there is simply no evidence that the department will meet the projections they cite in the current draft. Claims of over 100,000 AF/y have been made in every iteration of the departments UWMP since 1985.

Recycled Water – Irrigation and Industrial

Recycled water is next in the planned supply table in the Draft 2015 UWMP. The department split Recycled water is split between two sub categories back in 2010 and that continues today. They are ‘Irrigation and Industrial Use’ and ‘Groundwater Replenishment’.


Irr

 

Irrigation and Industrial Use, better known as purple pipe is expected to contribute 19,800 AF/y of water into the city water system by 2020 and increase to 45,400 AF/y by 2040. 2015RCYPaperHowever, the departments history of meeting purple pipe projections suggests that they will not come close to meeting these new projections either. Over the last eight years the department’s average has been just ~7,500 AF/y.

EIR’s produced between 2010 and 2015 have all claimed that by 2015, water recycled and distributed through purple pipe would be contributing 20,000 Af/y into the city’s water system.

However, the department missed that mark badly with only ~9,800 AF of measured supply by September of 2015.  Earlier UWMP’s promised even more water, citing that up to 29,000 AF/y would have been available by 2015.

Even given the chance that the LADWP might eke out at least 15,000 AF/y of purple pipe water, the Draft 2015 UWMP is effectively be hiding up to 30,400 AF/y of the city’s total supply shortage using paper water in this particular category.

Recycled Water – Groundwater ReplenishmentRepl

 

Our fifth line of the planned supply table is Groundwater Replenishment. This is not expected to begin contributing the city’s water portfolio until 2025. Groundwater Replenishment is a treated wastewater program known as Indirect Potable Reuse which is similar to Orange County’s successful IPR program.

If the department is successful at rolling out IPR, this may turn out to be a real supply. How much we actually see entering the system on a year to year basis remains to be seen.

Stormwater Capture – Harvesting

What was new to the 2010 UWMP but considered only a ‘potential supply’, Stormwater Capture has been undeservingly upgraded to a ‘planned supply’. It is split between two line items, Stormwater ‘Reuse’ and Stormwater ‘Recharge’.

harvest

 

Stormwater Reused is the sixth supply line item in the planned supply table. Also known as Capture and Reuse or Harvesting, it is another fuzzy water category consisting of Rain Barrels and Cisterns. The department claims that these components will be contributing to 400 AF/y to the city’s water system by 2020 and that will increase to 2,000 AF/y by 2040.

In the previous 6 years, the 2010 UWMP asserted that Harvesting would contribute 2,000 to 10,000 AF/y of water into the city’s water supply portfolio but none of that was ever reported.

Development projects throughout the city parroted that claim in their EIR’s but the department could never measure it nor report it.

Whether it’s the 2010 UWMP or the 2015 plan, this category fits the definition of paper water because the department has no direct access to it.

Rain barrels and cisterns are back yard, privately owned containers that do not have gages mounted to them that report back to the utility. There is no way the LADWP can tell if they are actually in use, whether they’ve collected rainwater or if they have been repurposed for other uses. I get the sense that they are keeping this category around mainly so that they can give away rain barrels to promote the conservation.  

The Draft 2015 UWMP uses paper water in the Stormwater Reuse category to hide 400 to 2,000 AF/y of the city’s total supply shortage.

(Correction: The graph and analysis in this section incorrectly cited the Single Dry Year table of 100 to 400 AF/y when Average Year Table was meant to be used.  The level of paper water in this section was raised to 400 to 2,000 AF/y - 3/3/2016 dcoffin) 

Stormwater Capture - Recharge

recharg

The seventh line item of the UWMP planned supply table is ‘Recharge’.  Over the years the city has relied on ‘natural recharge’ but this has severely decreased due to the city’s urbanization because as structures and roads were built over permeable soil.

The intent is to build an infrastructure that will capture up to 15,000 AF/y of water during intense rainwater events and allow it to infiltrate into to the ground much like natural recharge.

This may very well be another form of supply that is difficult to access given that is relies on rain events. For example, El Nino was thought that it would bring heavy rains to the Los Angeles area in the Winter/Spring of 2016 but that did not happen.

Recharge will be subject to the same meteorological events that groundwater pumping relies on and as noted earlier, groundwater pumping has never met the long term projections found in past UWMPs.  There is no guarantee that it will result in 15,000 Af/y supply until the program is in fully implemented and effects can be measured as it enters the city’s water system.  How much we actually see entering the system on a year to year basis remains to be seen.

MWD Water Purchases with Existing/Planned Supplies
MWD

 

‘MWD Water Purchases’ is an interesting category because the department has consistently ‘underestimated’ how much it will buy from the Metropolitan Water District.  This happens because as previously noted, the LADWP claims it has access to water it doesn’t have access to.  Sooner or later the department has to quietly make adjustments and purchase additional water from the MWD to make up for the shortage.

The 2015 projections are pretty stunning given that it represents a 68% drop from the 2010 UWMP and worse, an 80% drop from the real purchases. 

Given how much paper water is in this draft UWMP which includes the so-called ‘Conservation’, there is no evidence that the LADWP will be able to meet those projections and subsequently limit MWD purchases at this level unless Mayor Garcetti wants to deliberately deepen the city’s water supply shortage by plunging the city into a Phase IV or Phase V restrictions.   

Between 2000 to 2010, the LADWP projected it would be purchasing an average of 247,995 AF/y from the MWD. But during this time the actual average supply it purchased from the MWD during that time was 30% higher at 325,570 AF/y.

This clearly demonstrates that the LADWP has not been meeting its real water projections and that its projections are indeed full of paper water. The department’s MWD projections are simply not reliable.

Transfers

transfers

 

Over the last six years, projects working their way through the planning process cited in their EIR’s that 40,000 AF/y of Transfer water would be available to the city by 2015 along with other surplus water in the other categories. However, the department was not able to access this water that so we can firmly place this in the category of paper water.

With the water market turning increasingly bleak, the LADWP rightfully did not include Transfers in the Service Area Reliability Assessments table as a ‘Planned Supply’.  Instead it downgraded Transfers to a ‘Potential Supply’ but it still remains on the Service Area Reliability Assessments table making it ‘appear’ as if it is accessible.  

The chances that the department will have access to this water is fairly remote given that there no willing sellers in the Central Valley or Northern California and its like that the department would find itself bidding against the well-financed Metropolitan Water District.  

The $40 million spent by the LADWP on the Neenach Pumping Station Turnout Facility Project in the Antelope Valley doesn’t seem like a great investment today.

MWD Water Purchases with Existing/Planned Supplies and Transfers

MWDpotential

 

 

The tenth and last item in the Draft 2015 UWMP Services Area Reliability Assessment is an alternative MWD Water Purchase should the LADWP be able to secure contracts for water in the ‘Transfer’ category.  It states that if the LADWP were to be able to secure contracts for 40,000 AF/y of Transfer water, this would result in lower MWD purchases amounting to ~20,630 to 35,430 AF/y.

 

 

L.A. City Prodded to Grow Without Additional Water

Published / by dcoffin / Leave a Comment

In the most recent Water Board Water Conservation Report showing the state's June 2015 conservation, LADWP has been revising population figures presumably to keep the Residential gallons per capita daily (R-GPCD) level from getting out of control. They are now estimating monthly population growth and using each months figures to calculate residential water use.

I was surprised they kept using the 3,935,257 figure from month to month since leaving the population number where it was would have artificially raised the R-GPCD while population and demand increased.  The screen shot from the report shows the department's estimates that the city  has grown by 55,089 residents in last twelve months (or roughly 19,674 new units1 constructed) while it has been losing water supply.

ladwpPop

RHNA forces cities to identify properties that are suitable for development for the number of units they are allocated for. Despite the 7 year long water deficit the city has been fighting, the increasing population numbers that the LADWP is providing is a result of the California's RHNA requirement. If a developer wants to build on a property identified in the Housing Element (a RHNA requirement), the city can't say no by state law unless the UWMP or WSA is successfully challenged.

Any gains being made by residents to recover from the drought (turf removal, limiting landscaping watering days, low flow toilets, high efficiency washers, etc.) to increase storage levels and reserves are simply wiped out the state and city planning process.

--------------

1 2013-2021 Los Angeles Housing Element reports average of 2.8 inhabitants per dwelling unit.

Dissecting L.A.’s Water Supply – Conservation & Stormwater Capture

Published / by dcoffin / Leave a Comment

With the availability of imported water dramatically falling and local supplies (recycled water and groundwater) not meeting projections, the LADWP had to scramble to come up with ways to develop new supplies or create the perception of sufficient supplies for future growth. Or both.

new waterThis would require some creative thinking by the department pie charts in past water plans cited only four sources of supply that make up the city's water supply which were the LA Aqueduct, Groundwater, MWD, and Recycled water.

In the 2010 UWMP the department settled on three new sources. Two of these sources were 'Conservation' and ‘Stormwater Capture’. The third will be discussed at a later date.

To date, five years after they were announced, neither of these sources have been measured and reported to the city’s Board of Water and Power Commissioners in its monthly reports so this information is not made public. Without reporting this, there is no way to independently verify the claims made in UWMP's and Water Supply Assessments.  The reasons they are not reported should be apparent as we discuss them below.

CONSERVATION – As described in the 2010 UWMP, conservation is a “continuation of rebates, incentives, promoting new technologies and reduced outdoor water use.”

There is a problem with this description however in that it is not ‘new’ water. Conservation is not a source of supply that contributes 'new' water to the 700,000 Af/y supply which the LADWP says will grow to by 2030. It merely stretches out water that was already been counted as new water. This is essentially a form of double-dipping so it should be treated as paper water.

When individuals use less water for any of the reasons described above this doesn’t add to the supply, it merely stretches out the supply or allows it to be re-allocated to other uses such as new construction.

systemreport'Conservation’ doesn't show up on monthly reports to the Board of Commissioners because it is not new water, and it can’t be precisely measured. Furthermore, whatever figure can be estimated it would have to show up as a credit which would help lower the city’s projected annual demand. If the department lowered the projection then it would not show a growing water supply which would presumably make WSA’s a harder sell.

STORMWATER CAPTURE – The ‘Stormwater capture’ supply is divided into two sub-categories that together, the department claims will produce 25,000 Af/y of water. These sub-categories are ‘Increased Groundwater Production’ and ‘Capture and Reuse (Rainwater harvesting)’.

In the first sub-category,  Increased Groundwater Production is a source that the department says will produce 15,000 Af/y of new water. LADWP is rehabilitating and increasing the capacity of its spreading grounds that will result in the increased groundwater production. When stormwater is captured, it is directed towards spreading grounds where the water percolates or is pumped into the ground for storage and later pumped out as groundwater pumping. This new water adds to the supply and can be measured as stormwater enters the spreading grounds.

However, because these figures do not show up on monthly reports to the Board of Commissioners, there is no way to verify if the department is meeting its 15,000 Af/y targets and until that is done, this claim should be treated as paper water.

barrelIn the next sub-category, Capture and Reuse (Harvesting) is a source that is divided between rain barrels and cisterns. The department claims that Rain barrels will contribute 2,000 Af/y and up to 10,000 Af/y in 2035 to the supply. This figure is highly suspect at best because it can't be measured and it includes a lot of assumptions that makes reaching the goal unlikely.

The department sets up a scenario to assuming 400,000 residents will have a rain barrel sitting aside a 500 square foot roof located in an area where it rains an average of 15” per year. How they come up with 2,000 Af/y is anyone's guess. You would need 11 million rain barrels to store 2,000 AF which is 651,702,000 gallons. However, the bottom line is this cannot be verified. With no gages, no monitoring and no reporting, the department shouldn't be touting it as a supply. Treat this as paper water.

The department is even more vague about cisterns which function like rain barrels but are a much larger. The scenario the department sets up to collect 8,000 Af/y is simply that they will be sited ‘on-site for schools and governments only’. It doesn’t say how many cisterns are needed or how large they are and it doesn't say where they will be located. Here again, no gages, no monitoring and no monthly reporting to the board. Trust us seems to be the prevailing message for the Harvesting sub-category so this should be treated as paper water.

In summary, only half of the Stormwater Capture supply (higher capacity spreading grounds) can be considered new water which adds to the city's water supply. The other half (harvesting) can't be measured for participation and effectiveness so it falls into the category of paper water. And with Conservation, this is another example of paper water since it also does not add to the water supply.

To be credible, UWMP’s and water supply assessments must be based on reliably collected data from all of the historical supplies they cite as sources. Trust us isn’t good enough.

Stormwater   













Running 9 Cities Out of Water

Published / by dcoffin / Leave a Comment

In a recent article I wrote that California's biggest danger to water reliability isn't the lack of dams or groundwater, it was the State's growth policy that's forces city's to build. In its drive to produce housing to meet a desktop analysis that says the state will grow to ~51 million people, the state uses a little known legislative law called RHNA that 'tells cities' throughout the state how many units they must provide for. The cities must then answer in response by identifying properties (and even re-zone to allow for higher densities) where developers can build those units if the properties become available on the market.

Recently a news article listed Nine California cities running out of water. Most of them are in the central valley where it is especially bad. To emphasis how disconnected the State's RHNA process to the water challenges that cities face, I've provided is a list of those nine cities along with the number of units each city's is allocated to provide for and a rough estimate1 on how much water will be needed to support those units should they be built out.

rhna1

On one hand each of theses cities are confronted with a huge water deficit resulting in an unreliable water supply and on the other hand the State is pushing them to increase housing in places where its no longer practical. Literally RHNA is running cities out of water. The housing allocations are running up water demand to the point where cities have insufficient supplies.

Between the 2006/2013 and 2014/2021 RHNA allocations, the City of Los Angeles has had to identify properties that could be developed for 194,000 units.

Updated 7/31/15

In the most recent Water Board Water Conservation Report, LADWP has been revising population figures presumably to keep the Residential-GPCD level from getting out of control. They are now projecting monthly population growth and using each months figures to calculate residential water use.  The screen shot from the report shows the city has projected that it has grown by 55,089 residents while the water supply has dropped.

ladwpPop

RHNA forces cities to identify properties that are suitable for development for the number of units they are allocated for. Despite the 7 year long water deficit the city has been fighting, the increasing population numbers that the LADWP is providing is a result of the California's RHNA requirement. If a developer want to build on a property identified in the Housing Element (a RHNA requirement), the city can't say no.

 

1RGPCD data in the May '15 Urban Water Supplier Report was used as a basis for each cities demand.

The WSA – Bringing Imaginary Water to L.A.’s Big Projects

Published / by dcoffin / Leave a Comment

In a previous article I wrote that The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power was confronted with two conflicting demands that dates back to 1990. The department’s conflict is between providing enough water to city residents from a rapidly shrinking water supply that once averaged 680,000 Af/y and is now just over 610,000 Af/y and then also show evidence that the city’s water supply is growing to assure continued growth. 

By now most of the public is well aware that there is a water shortage and that the DWP has been furiously trying to reduce the city’s residential per capita consumption by bombarding the media with accounts of shortages, imposing emergency drought restrictions, ‘drought shaming’ residents into using as little water as possible, and even paying them to tear out lawns and substitute it with drought resistant landscaping.

What the public is not aware of is that the LADWP puts on a very different face when it comes to assessing demand and assuring water supply for large new projects that consume the equivalent of 500 units or more in its Water Supply Assessments also known as WSA’s. Performing a water supply assessment is required by state law for very large projects and the department has produced more than seventy of them since 2005.

You need water? We got the water! Step Right in line.

1444 unit SOLA Village ProjectThe DWP’s water assessments are akin to a Hollywood movie set whose front facing facades of old western towns look like the real thing but when you step through a door all you find is an empty lot.

Read through a WSA and you’ll be transported into a parallel world where there’s plenty of surplus water to support a projects demand for the next twenty years along with all the other planned future demand that don’t trigger water supply assessments. But look behind the report at the actual supply figures and you’ll find that like the old western town on the big screen, the WSA is a mere facade as well.

Let’s take a recent example of the large 1,444 unit downtown SOLA Village project that the LADWP recently recommended to the Board or Water and Power for approval. Keeping in mind that the City of Los Angeles is already reeling from a water shortage and has been since 1990, the DWP’s Water Resources Section concluded in the projects water supply assessment that “adequate water supplies will be available to meet the total additional water demand” and that the demand “can be met during normal, single-dry, and multi-dry water years” for the next 20 years!

The department came to this conclusion by citing water demand and supply forecasts from its own current Urban Water Management Plan. A practice that is allowed by the state but should bring to question the sincerity to the laws “Show Me the Water” hype.

unmetRCYThe city’s past water plans have always claimed to have access to amazing amounts of water but in reality its water that can never be delivered or touched. You’ll never be able to wash your hands with it or sip it from a glass. Its imaginary water destined only for the pages of WSA's and UWMP's that are used to approve projects by decision makers.

For instance, supporting the SOLA Village project, the WSA cites that over the next twenty years the department will be able to build up recycled water supplies “eight-fold” to an amazing 59,000 Af/y by 2035. The problem however is that they’ve made similar claims to this in every preceding water plan going back to 1990!

The 2010 and 2005 plans that are routinely cited in the city's WSA’s both stated that we would be enjoying 20,000 Af/y of recycled water by 2015! In reality though, we’ve only seen an average of 7,392 Af/y since 2005 and we missed the 2015 target by 13,000 AF or 4.2 billion gallons.

Touching on another source of water, the SOLA Village WSA goes on to claim that stormwater capture will increase the water supply by 25,000 AF. Stormwater capture while not new, has been getting a lot of press attention lately when it was singled out by the city as a promising groundwater recharge component that would increase supplies.

But stormwater capture along with groundwater is highly speculative and certainly not sustainable on a year-to-year basis given the whims of Mother Nature. We can only look at averages and the averages have never been good to WSA’s when you look at them historically.

Certainly the city could bump up groundwater recharge with larger catch basins but rain barrels? Seriously? The departments WSA suggests that 10,000 Af of the 25,000 AF total would be met by rain barrels and cisterns. It would take 65 million of those plastic 50 gallon barrels that cost residents about $100 to buy. I suspect that the DWP is perhaps leaning towards underground cisterns to capture some of that water. But how would we know? WSA doesn’t positively identify how many or where these cisterns will be located. It just throws out the claim. WSA’s are supposed to “Show Me the Water” as the law was named, not make empty promises.

unmetGWContinuing on empty promises, groundwater has always been the department’s go-to resource when you need to bump up imaginary water. The SOLA Village WSA benefits in this trend by citing wild groundwater claims that states the department will be able to deliver more than 100,000 AF year-after-year. However, so did literally every plan before it.

Since 1990 the DWP’s Water Systems Section has repeatedly claimed the city would be receiving an average of 100,000 AF or more each year but that was never met. The WSA doesn’t tell you that. The city’s average yield has been just 67,000 Af since 2000. The WSA also doesn’t tell you that. It doesn’t tell you that only three times since 1990 has it ever exceeded 100,000 AF. It doesn’t really tell you we really don’t have enough water for these projects.

Susceptible to Challenge                                                              

Given the way the department carelessly cites access to large sums of unobtainable water to shore up evidence of sufficient supply, this makes WSA susceptible to challenge. WSA’s are a requirement of SB 610 and SB 221 which are collectively known as the “Show Me the Water Laws” but  LADWP’s WSA’s plans have not done that since 1990.

The Paper Water Years – LA’s 1995 – 2000 Water Plans

Published / by dcoffin / Leave a Comment

This is Part IV in a series describing L.A.’s water supply problems and the policies that produced it.

1995CoverIn Part III we saw how the city sought to maintain the 1985 baseline of ~175 gallons per capita daily in the 1990 UWMP while population estimates increased. As a result we saw the projected supply in the plan jump significantly from the previous plan. We also found that the DWP heavily leveraged the projected 1990 supply in the groundwater and recycled categories using water it had no chance of getting. These factors continued into the 1995-2000 UWMP's. 

The 1995 UWMP - L.A.'s 3rd Water Plan
The 1995 UWMP should best be known by the city’s acquiescence that water supply had its limits. Population estimates from the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) did not climb as dramatically as they had in the 1990 plan but the increase from 3.85 million to 4.25 million by 2015 (9%) was still the driving factor.

With future growth estimates continuing to drive the supply requirement of more water, DWP planners were forced to set a new precedent by reducing the per capita supply from 177 gallons per capita to 150 gallons acknowledging that less water would be coming through the Los Angeles Aqueduct due to recent court ordered restrictions of Mono Basin water and at current allocations, future growth would have demanded ridiculously large amounts of water that couldn’t be met.

1995GPC
Figure 1 - Big jump to reduce per capita supply

If the DWP planners tried to sustain the 177 gallons per day cited in the 1990 plan, the projected supply in the new plan would have shot up to 757,000 for 2000 and risen to 886,000 acre feet per year (Af/y) by 2015!

Historically though, reducing the per capita supply to 150 gallons per day per capita would not be enough. At this allocation the DWP suggested that it would have 695,000 Af/y by 2005 and could gradually increase that to 750,000 Af/y by 2015 (Figure 1). But in the years following the approval of the plan, the actual supply figures that came in would demonstrate the DWP's failure to achieve these projections suggesting that there was far too much paper water in the projections to be viable.

DWP planners accepted that less water was going to be available through the aqueduct system and reduced the aqueduct supply by 20,000 Af/y to 360,000 Af/y in the 1995 plan.

1995PW
Fig. 2 - 1995 Projections vr. Supply

To offset the loss of aqueduct water, DWP planners suggested that they could increase the already large projections of the 1990 plans and increase the availability of recycled water to 38,000 Af/y, and groundwater to 152,000 Af/y.

Through the years though, none of these figures would ever be achieved. Recycled water averaged a mere 2,300 Af/y and groundwater averaged just 87,000 Af/y proving the plan wasn’t working.

The historical significance of the 1995 plan was that the DWP would only muster up an average of 638,490 Af/y (Figure 2). Far less than the 750,000 Af/y that it promised. Because of the paper water fueled growing deficit, the DWP would start prodding the public into reducing its demand using such schemes as tiered pricing, washer rebate programs and require that all homes install low-flow toilets before resale.

The 2000 UWMP - L.A.'s 4th Water Plan

2000GPC
Figure 3 - Lower per capita and rising demand

L.A.'s fourth water plan might best be known as having to largest projected supply that the DWP said it could meet of any of the city's UWMP's. This monster projection occurred even as the department further reduced the gallons per capita daily water supply. The reasons were due to estimated population projections supplied by SCAG.

The new SCAG population estimates started out at 4,035,305 by 2005 population and would grow to 4,856,887 by 2020. These new population figures when figured into the new per capita allocations created a demand that would skyrocket to almost 800,000 Af/y.

The 2000 UWMP lowered the 'year 2005 supply per capita' of the previous plan from 154 to 150 gallons per day and from their it would ratchet down the consumption further to 147 gallons per day by 2020. (Figure 3)

But the lower allocations would still generate a sharp rise in demand. The DWP said it could supply 718,000 Af/y of water in 2010 and sharply increase in to 799,000 Af/y by 2020. The increase though didn't come from increased recycle and groundwater.

Figure 4 - 2000 Projection vr. Supply

Perhaps realizing that developing a recycled water system and pumping more groundwater was not paying the dividends they predicted earlier, the city ended its long standing resistance to relying on pricier MWD water and would ratchet up purchases of water from 200,000 to 298,650 Af/y which would nearly equal the aqueduct supply level.

Planners were forced to lower the recycled water projections 28% from 38,000 to 29,350 Af/y. Groundwater projections fell only slightly from 152,000 to 150,000 Af/y but aqueduct projections fell significantly from 360,000 Af/y to 321,000 Af/y.

The historical significance of the 2000 UWMP was that the DWP would only be able to deliver an average of 617,000 Af/y from 2000 to 2014 which was well under the promised 757,000 Af/y by 2015 and light years from the 799,000 Af/y it said it would have in 2020 to meet the city’s growth. (Figure 4)

NEXT:  2005 and 2010 UWMP's

Promise of Backup Water Not Met by DWP

Published / by dcoffin / Leave a Comment

Construction projects going through the city permit process are required to cite how much water demand they will impose on the city's water supply and whether the city has surplus water supplies to accommodate the project.

2010
2010 UWMP states that MWD would make up for city shortfalls.

This information is provided in the EIR (Environmental Impact Report) which is part of the permit package for the project. The EIR's have a section on 'Utilities' stating where this surplus water will come from. As evidence of sufficient surplus water, the EIR's refer you to the city's current UWMP as evidence. The UWMP also describes how it will meet demand should there be a shortages of city owned water. When water shortages occur the city's water plans state that they have access to MWD supplies that will meet the city's level of demand.

The chart below shows us that despite the UWMP's guarantee that the Metropolitan Water District will be able to provide sufficient water supply in dry years, the DWP has not been able to meet that guarantee since MWD supplies have come up short of the projections every year since 1990.

The deficit the city finds itself in is a result of this gap. Because this has been allowed to occur for twenty five years and never corrected in each subsequent UWMP,  we have to assume that these statements in the UWMP assuring that MWD will meet demand are mainly intended to facilitate approvals and nothing more. As such, it is a planned deficit.

MWD supplies have not been sufficient to meet the city's demands.
MWD supplies DWP water during shortages but has not been enough to meet the city's demands.

L.A.’s Drought and Growth are Built on Paper Water

Published / by dcoffin / Leave a Comment

L.A.’s recent drought has been going on far longer than the statewide drought. California’s last drought was declared in 2008 and ended in 2011 and another declared in 2015.  L.A’s drought was declared in 2008 and was never rescinded. So why has L.A.’s drought been so persistent and growing by the day? This brings on another question we should ask is how does the city reconcile the endless approvals of new construction during a persistent drought?

The short answer to both is that in order to provide evidence of sufficient water supply for projected growth, the city’s UWMP (Urban Water Management Plan) has been reporting that is has far more water available to it than it can get. uwmp2010Every UWMP from 1990 till now has projected supplies that exceeded 700,000 AF but when we look back at DWP records from 1990 to 2004 we find that the city’s total supply averaged just 627,000 Af/y. Since 2005 the average has fallen even further to just 590,000 Af/y. Simply put, the DWP has never met their projections and that has steered us head-on into a drought.

When DWP officials are asked why they haven’t met the projections cited in the UWMP, using a little spin they tell you that conservation efforts reduced demand and they didn't need to import as much as projected.

This routine answer however is disingenuous since the projections include future growth and clearly the DWP hasn’t met that expectation given today’s restrictions on water. The 1985 UWMP set the city’s baseline water at 175 to 176 gcpd (gallons per capita daily). This number reflected the current level of water to residents, businesses, and industry, it included various conservation programs such as low-flow hardware devices and left room for projected population growth to 3.41 million by 2010. At this level the city cited that it would be able to meet the demand with a very reachable water supply of 667,300 Af/y.

In 1990 however, the city’s population increased faster than the population projections that were cited in the earlier plan. Population projections in the new plan were now 14% higher and in order to maintain a similar per capita supply level and still meet projected growth, the plan’s total demand and supply projections jumped 13 percent to a not so believable 756,500 Af/y by 2010.

In each of the subsequent plans from 1995 to 2010 would continue to cite available supplies over 700,000 Af/y and as high as 799,000 Af/y.

Conflicting Demands

So now the city was confronted with two conflicting demands. The first would be to provide enough water from a now shrinking supply that once averaged 680,000 Af/y and has now fallen to just over 610,000 Af/y and still meet the city’s need. The second was to show that its supply was growing and that it would be sufficient for continued growth.

unnamed-(3)In an attempt to solve the first problem, the city’s 1995 water plan would have to ratchet down the per capita rate to 150 gallons per day to lower the total demand otherwise we would seen demand in excess of 875,000 Af/y. However even 150 gallons per day wouldn’t be enough over the short term and the city would also have to implement more draconian methods to lower the per capita further by imposing an Emergency Water Conservation order on single family residents and reducing residential billing unit allocations.

The second problem to show a growing water supply over the long term to meet the city’s growth ambitions would require a little sleight-of-hand by the DWP using ‘paper water’.

Paper Water

Paper water by definition is “water that an agency says it has available to it, but its water that is difficult or impossible to access.” and paper water can be measured by the gap between what an agency says it has available to it, and what it eventually gets.  The wider the gap, the deeper our problems.

California’s water laws require that planning agencies, and developers show evidence of current and future water availability for their project. EIR’s and water supply assessments all rely on the projections cited in the UWMP so there is a great deal of pressure on the DWP to show that the water supply is growing, where the supplies are coming from and how much. If the water plans did not show evidence of future water availability that was sufficient to match population projections this could greatly hamper the approval of their projects and possibly stop them cold. In fact some cities in California today have stopped issuing water meters to new subdivisions for residential because they have no surplus of water.

So where do we find the DWP’s paper water? With a little digging into the city’s past and current water plans we can find it in literally every category of the city’s water portfolio in literally every water plan.

Paper Ground Water

City never met its groundwater projections
City never met its groundwater projections

Our first stop to find paper water is in the DWP’s groundwater projections that are cited in each of the UWMP’s approved by the city between 1990 and 2010. The accompanying groundwater chart shows us a 79,500 Af/y gap between what the DWP says it would have to meet the city’s growth and the actual amount of groundwater the DWP had access to.

For example if we look at the groundwater projections in the 2000 UWMP, groundwater was projected to contribute 133,000 Af/y by 2010. However the average amount received between 2005 and 2014 was just 66,431 Af/y creating a 56% deficit of what they projected. This 56% is what we call paper water because these same conditions arise in each of the other water plans approved by the city. 36% of the groundwater projection cited in the 1990 UWMP was paper water. 51% of the 1995 UWMP’s groundwater was paper water, and in the 2005 UWMP it is 39% paper water.

Over 24 years this paper water would represent about 1,088,000 AF of water that the DWP said it would have to meet projected growth but over time it would never receive.

The city never stood much chance to meet these projections. Growth, fueled by paper water is at the center of blame. LAStormwater.org states that the city captures just 27,000 Af/y of storm water a year to recharge the underground storage. This low rate is attributed by ULARAwatermaster.com to the city’s built-out growth which has impeded the capture of groundwater because so much permeable soil is paved and built over. The Upper Los Angeles River Area Watermaster reports that most of today’s groundwater recharge comes primarily from LA Aqueduct and Metropolitan Water District imports. Further restricting groundwater pumping is that many wells were found to be contaminated in the mid 2000’s and had to be taken out of service.

Paper Recycled Water

City never met its recycled water projections
City never met its recycled water projections

Our next stop where we find paper water in is the DWP’s Recycled Water projections. Urban Water Management Plans between 1990 and 2005 all projected rapidly growing recycled water supplies that later would never be realized.

The Recycled Water chart shows a huge gap indicating that up to 91% of water supply the city claimed it would have access to for future growth is just paper water.

In one example the DWP projected in the 1990 UWMP that the city would have 32,800 Af/y of recycled water by the year 2010. This number like all projections would be used as evidence of future growth by planners. But this water would never be realized. The actual average reported yield between 1995 and 2010 was just 2,921 Af/y which was 29,879 Af/y below what was promised. This 91% deficit is our paper water.

We find the same results in each of the other recycled water projections of plans that would follow. If we look at the 2010 projection in the 1995 UWMP, 84% of the 29,000 Af/y that was supposedly available ended up as paper water. In the 2000 plan, 75% of the 18,400 Af/y projected for the year 2010 ended up as paper. In the 2005 plan 65% of the 16,950 Af/y projected was paper water.

Over 24 years this would represent at least 384,096 AF of paper water that the city said it had access to as evidence that it had sufficient supply for projected growth but it never received that water.

Oddly, the DWP’s latest 2010 plan appears to be doubling down on paper water by citing that it will have 59,000 Af/y available to it by 2035. Already it looks like the first milestone in 2010 of 20,000 Af/y will be missed by a large margin which further demonstrates how that L.A’s drought and growth are built on paper water.

Paper Aqueduct Water

City never met its LA aqueduct projections
City never met its LA aqueduct projections

The city owned aqueducts have been our primary source of water since 1913 but in recent years it has also become the UWMP’s largest contributor of paper water.

Even though the aqueduct’s projections in each plan would fall incrementally due primarily to environmental mitigation, the percentage of paper water would increase from 38% during the 1990 UWMP reporting period to 54% by the 2005 UWMP reporting period.

In this example, if we look at the 1995 UWMP, aqueduct water was projected to be 360,000 Af/y which included surpluses for future growth. But that water never came down the pipe. The actual total reported supply was just 217,258 AF/y between 2000 and 2014 was 142,274 Af/y below what was promised. This meant that 43% of the projected total was paper water.

The 2000 UWMP projected aqueduct supplies to be 321,000 Af/y through to the year 2020. However to date the average supply has been just 210,132 Af/y meaning that 45% of the projected supply was paper water. The 2005 UWMP would look worse. It projected 276,000 Af/y through the year 2030 but the supply beginning with its reporting period has been just 173,393 Af/y meaning that over half of the water projected in this plan, 54% was paper water.

Over 24 years this would represent at least 1,863,000 AF of paper water that the city said it had access to as evidence of a growing supply but it never received to this date.

Paper MWD Water

lagado
Projects in L.A. promise that MWD will meet any city shortfalls in the future.

It’s hard to describe MWD water as paper water since most of the DWP’s projections for MWD water were greatly under reported from what was actually received. Typically when the City of L.A. fell short of water which was most of the time, the MWD would step in to fill in as much missing supply as it could. But water is a zero-sum resource and if you take more than your share of water, you’re taking it from another agency. There are limits to what the MWD could supply and history suggests that 423,000 Af/y was L.A’s limit.

MWD water can be described as paper water because each of the city’s UWMP assures that any shortfall of city owned water would be made up by MWD water which is a promise that can’t be met. That is promise made to planners more than it is to the city’s residents.

Paper Conservation

This category is a new form of paper water that was just introduced in the 2010 UWMP. In past years, the term conservation applied to water supply that was already received by the city and the value attributed to it was measured by the reduced number of gallons per capita. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the DWP originally allocated about 175 gallons per capita in the 1985 and 1990 water plans which includes residential, commercial, government and industrial uses. The city’s conservation programs since then have reduced this to 141 gallons per capita using primarily Tier pricing and low-flow hardware devises. More recently it included so-called “turf buy back” and enforcement measures. In its simplest terms, ‘conservation’ is the ability to stretch out a given supply.

The DWP in 2010 decided to turn this idea on top of its head and count conservation as a source of supply that adds to the city’s total supply. This appears to be another attempt to produce more water on the ‘books’, but water that in time will not be accessible. The 2010 UWMP appears to be suggesting that the city will receive 14,180 Af/y of new water by 2015 and up to 64,368 Af/y by 2035.

Paper Transfers

Neenach Pumping Station (Google Earth)

This is another new category to the UWMP. Transfers may also turn out to be another form of paper water since water transfers from other agencies is solely dependent on them having surplus water which is in doubt these days.

Most of the agencies the city could bargain with also depend on the SWP to supply them water. The SWP has been seriously cutting back allocations to their customers which includes the MWD.

The 2010 UWMP projects that it will receive 40,000 Af/y through the Neenach pumping station. Only time will tell if this is a viable and reliable source of water.

Summary

Overall the amount of water the city promised for future growth and did not meet is staggering. Each UWMP would follow a familar pattern. The first of the five year milestones would be adjusted relatively close to the current supply level and in the following 10, 15, and later milestone years, paper water would contribute to ‘unlikely to be reached’ levels of supply.

When we look at the 1990 UWMP for example we find that the total annual water supply projected by the year 2010 was 756,500 Af/y but the actual supply that came in during the scope of this plan was just 624,283 Af/y. Paper water represented 17% of total projection given the shortfall of 132,217 AF per year. The 2000 UWMP would raise the projections astronomically to 799,000 Af/y but as actual supplies came in, the average so far to date is just 617,645 Af/y thus producing a deficit of 181,355 Af/y per year.

Over 24 years, this would represent 4,352,000 AF of paper water that the city said it had access to as evidence of a growing supply but it never received to this date.

From the standpoint of development and the planning department, paper water is a good thing because the EIR’s, WSA’s and smaller projects that fall below SB-221 reporting requirements can all be assured that whatever their demand is, it will “fall within the available and projected water supplies” over the 20 to 25 year scope of the plan they are citing. Whether the city falls into a permanent drought is irrelevant to the approval process but it has huge repercussions elsewhere since the unmet demands means that the water must be found elsewhere when conservation isn't enough. These demands might be met by fallowing farmlands in the South San Joaquin valley or eliminating their supplies altogether forcing them to drive wells deeper to meet their shortfalls.

From the standpoint of residents however, paper water means higher utility bills, lower tier allocations, and lower property values for the unlucky homeowners who have high density built behind their yards but worst of all, it means the city's water supply is no longer reliable.

This article originally appear on City Watch LA.

L.A.’s First Water Plans – The 1985 & 1990 UWMP

Published / by dcoffin / Leave a Comment
In 1983 the State of California passed the Urban Water Management Plan Act that required water suppliers to provide a water plan every five years. 1985UWMPCoverThe Urban Water Management Plan (UWMP) is rich in information as it identifies the agencies sources of water (aqueduct, groundwater, imported), amounts of water available from these sources, methods of conveyance, current and future water uses, projected demand, current and future conservation methods, demographics, population density and growth, housing mix, commercial/industrial/governmental demand, etc. The importance of the UWMP is that it is used as a guideline for making public decisions concerning water and is cited in planning documents, water supply assessments. But the UWMP can also be seriously misused when 'paper water' is inserted into the plans which provides a misleading assessment of the water supply or when city officials simply rubber stamp the findings without any sort of reassessment given current water supply availability. The City of L.A.'s UWMP's are both fascinating and disappointing in that they paint a picture of great expectations, a long term failure to meet demand and worse, a misleading assessment of the city's true water supply. What follows is a retrospective look back at previous UWMP's. What we find is a blueprint to a permanent water deficit. The 1985 UWMP - L.A.'s First Water Plan
Figure 1
The 1985 UWMP was the first state mandated water plan published by LADWP. This first time report was an honest and useful assessment of the city's water supply at the time. The plan assumed the city would receive a constant 470,000 Af/y supply through the Los Angeles aqueduct, 103,000 Af/y of groundwater and a small but growing reliance on MWD water between 1986 through 2010. From a planning perspective the most important part of the UWMP are the tables that show the projected water requirements at 5, 10, 15, and 20 increments for average years. The tables break down how much water the city assumes it will receive through the aqueduct, local groundwater, MWD, and recycled water. It's important that these projections meet the actual supply 5, 10, 15, and 20 years later because they are used in environmental impact reports and water supply assessments as guidelines for future development. If the actual supply doesn't meet the projections then we can assume we are creating a water supply deficit. (more…)