A Flood of Cooperation

There’s been a paradigm shift in Southern California.  Did you feel it?

Photo: http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2014/01/the-northridge-earthquake-20-years-ago-today/100664/
Photo: http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2014/01/the-northridge-earthquake-20-years-ago-today/100664/

The shift is in relationships.  Historically, flood control agencies and water suppliers have both been interested in how water flows from the mountains to the oceans, but they haven’t really talked together about it.  But, both groups had vastly different ideas on how it should happen.

In Southern California, the flood protectors worked diligently during the middle of the 20th century to speed the water down a predefined (engineered) path without excess bends or delays.  During that same time, the water suppliers were busy building pumps and pipes to serve the burgeoning population, especially after World War II.  Neither group really thought much about what the other was doing.

Then, around the turn of the century, with water supplies not able to keep up with all the new urban farming (ie, landscaping), the water suppliers started thinking about how to sink more water into the ground to bolster water tables in communities.  They even started to think of how “local supplies” (ie, groundwater) could be developed to reduce dependence on water imported from hundreds of miles away, which also used a lot of energy.  When they started looking at flood control facilities with new intent of delaying water to allow it to percolate into groundwater basins, the flood controllers got nervous.  In some instances, there was downright antagonism between the two well-meaning teams.

Here’s the paradigm shift–it’s in that relationship between flood control professionals and water suppliers.

The Southern California Water Committee has actually formed a “Stormwater Task Force” to bring the two groups together with the intent of trying to capture more of that natural runoff during SoCal’s short, but sometimes devastating, cloud bursts.

It’s an idea that most Southern Californians have been suggesting since the wagon trains arrived, using the wasted water that flows to the ocean unimpeded.  The answer was always that it cost too much and required too much land to try to capture the flood waters.  Then, the cost of water shot to the moon in 2008 when the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California announced they might run out of imported water.  Now it’s possible.  It may be a cost effective new supply.

Look for some exciting new projects being promoted by the members of the SCWC task force.  It’s amazing how the cooperation among these leading agencies can get things done.  They include projects like building new percolation ponds, removal of concrete channels, and managing existing facilities differently.  We all benefit from this new wave of cooperation.  Well done!

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