With its semi-arid climate and little native water resources, the City of Los Angeles relies upon importing water from hundreds of miles away—from the Eastern Sierra, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta), and the Colorado River—to support its population. However, recent regulatory restrictions on importing water from the Delta, coupled with environmental restoration in the Eastern Sierra, have triggered the need to develop more locally sustainable water resources.

Among the stresses on Los Angeles' water supply are the lowest snowpack in the Eastern Sierra and the driest weather recorded in 2007, and a 2008 Federal Court ruling that limited exports from the Delta by as much as one-third to protect the Delta smelt, an endangered fish. Added to that is the loss of a significant portion of the San Fernando Basin as a water source because of widespread contamination to the groundwater.

In May 2008, the City of Los Angeles released a Water Supply Action Plan titled “Securing L.A.’s Water Supply", to increase local water resources and ensure a reliable, sustainable water supply for Los Angeles. The program’s goal is to achieve additional water supplies of 50,000 acre feet per year (AFY) through recycling, and 50,000 AFY through conservation (1 acre foot is a unit of volume used in reference to large-scale water resources, and equals approximately 325,851 gallons). Other ongoing water supply initiatives include enhancing stormwater capture, accelerating cleanup of the San Fernando Groundwater Basin, expanding groundwater storage, developing standards for treating graywater, and pursuing sustainable building practices.

Water Supply Action Plan

Under this program, the LADWP invests approximately $100 million in water recycling, stormwater capture, and water conservation each year, approximately 10% of the Water System’s annual budget.

Since the release of “Securing L.A.’s Water Supply”, there have been significant achievements in local resource development. However, there is the potential for much more. For example, nearly 50% of single-family residential water use is outdoors for landscape irrigation, and much of that is to maintain turf. There is much potential to reduce outdoor water use overall and a significant potential for household graywater reuse.