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Los Angeles Makes Strides on Smart Water Use and Efficiency

As the state works to build a long-term framework for conservation and efficiency, Los Angeles is setting its own course, writes Liz Crosson, the deputy chief sustainability officer for Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti.

Written by Liz Crosson Published on Read time Approx. 3 minutes
Raymond Aleman, retired Department of Motor Vehicle customer service representative, waters his new drought-resistant garden at home in the Studio City neighborhood in Los Angeles, in May 2015.Damian Dovarganes, Associated Press

While President Trump seems to prefer a head-in-the-sand response to climate change, Californians of all political persuasions are working together to prepare for the future. Just as we are leading the nation on clean and efficient energy, we are also at the cutting edge of smart water solutions. California’s historic drought hit us hard in Los Angeles, so we are changing our habits while at the same time aiming to keep our communities and businesses thriving.

Our state leadership in Sacramento is considering a number of ideas to boost our water resilience. Gov. Jerry Brown’s conservation framework strikes the right balance by setting a pathway toward budget-based efficiency standards that are adequately ambitious and flexible. His approach embraces the need to develop sustainable water supplies that increase local reliability while recognizing that even new “drought-proof” supplies, like recycled water, must be used efficiently. Regardless of the source, every single drop counts. The sunny, Mediterranean climate we love simply cannot support water waste.

In Los Angeles, we have been working for years to do more with less. While the popular image of Los Angeles may be of Hollywood opulence and excess, we have made big strides in using water and energy wisely. The Sustainable City pLAn, released by Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2015, is our roadmap. It centers on three core principles: equity, economy and environment. In order to preserve the quality of life that we all want and deserve, everyone has to do their part.

The great news is that efficiency and growth are not only compatible, they are complementary. Today, Los Angeles uses the same amount of water as we did 40 years ago, despite having added 1 million new residents. Business here is booming, and many companies are doing more than required because efficiency investments cut costs in the long run and help their bottom line.

Take Reformation, a Los Angeles-based clothing manufacturer and boutique known for beautiful styles and a strong sustainability ethic. Most Reformation garments use about two-thirds less water than other clothes bought in the United States. Thoughtful sourcing and efficiency helped Reformation save 178 million gallons of water compared to conventional fashion in 2016.

There are a couple of lessons from Los Angeles that may be instructive for the rest of the state. First, the importance of smart standards that are tailored to the local environment. We all need to live within our means, but saving water will look different in different communities. That’s why in Los Angeles we set new water efficiency standards for new construction and redevelopment that applies indoors and outdoors. The Governor’s framework creates flexibility for suppliers to focus on the upgrades that make sense for their communities.

The second is transparency and accountability. In Los Angeles, we are requiring large municipal and commercial buildings to report their water and energy use. The first step to living within a budget is tracking expenditures, and that is what we’re doing with building bench marking. That is also the idea behind the state’s push to track water use by agricultural, commercial, institutional and industrial customers.

These big water users have the potential to lead on efficiency and save vast amounts of water. We’re seeing that all around in Los Angeles, from UCLA’s water recycling that saved 28 million gallons last year, to the Sheraton Grand, where indoor plumbing upgrades helped slash water use by 40 percent.

There are water-wise businesses all over the state, and a growing efficiency industry that is creating new tools and technologies all the time. By tapping these homegrown solutions, and working together, we can keep growing our economy in a way that works in today’s and tomorrow’s climate. The governor’s framework sets us up well to do that.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Water Deeply.

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