L.A. recycles rain to protect its ocean

Jennifer Collins Apr 12, 2010

L.A. recycles rain to protect its ocean

Jennifer Collins Apr 12, 2010


Bob Moon: As we speak this morning, rain is drenching us here in Los Angeles. Much of the water usually runs into the ocean, but officials want to get individual developers to catch the water and recycle it. And L.A.’s effort is becoming a model. From the Sustainability Desk, Marketplace’s Jennifer Collins reports.

Jennifer Collins: Sherri Akers has a secret weapon when it comes to her garden:

Sherri Akers: I’ll just take water from the rain barrel. Take a bucket.

Akers shows off a 55-gallon plastic barrel in the backyard of her L.A. home. The city gave it to her as part of a pilot program to use more of the rain that falls.

Akers: To water my potted plants. This is a dwarf blood red orange tree.

Normally, when the clouds open up, rain falls on her orange tree. But it also washes off streets and driveways and gets channelled to the ocean. The city wants to prevent that.

Paula Daniels: It’s the number one source of pollution to the ocean.

Paula Daniels is a commissioner on L.A.’s board of public works. She says the city is considering making developers build in a way to catch rainwater, and among other things, redirect it to the water table below.

Daniels: It’s about trying to change the way we work the landscape and keep the runoff on the property as much as possible.

Daniels says developers could easily do that with planted areas, cisterns or pavement that filters water instead shuttling it to the drains. This could help recycle water in the drought-stricken area.

Daniels: We will take the burden off of having to import water from Northern California.

If developers can’t catch the water, the city will charge them a fee, that on a large construction site could total more than $200,000.

Bill Davis: They’re looking for money.

Bill Davis is with the Southern California Contractors Association. Davis says the city’s desperate for money, and this is a sure-fire way to raise it. He says the contractors he works with aren’t trained to meet these kinds of requirements.

Davis: We know how to handle the water, what we don’t know is how to keep it on a job site instead of sending it someplace.

Davis says the additional fees will cripple an already battered construction industry. Still, Philadelphia and the state of Maryland are forging ahead with similar requirements.

I’m Jennifer Collins for Marketplace.

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.