Archive for the ‘Water’ Category

Governor Fast Tracking Highway Construction: So it looks like the Governor is looking to fast track some major state highway projects through the environmental review process in an attempt to boost the economy – LINK. “Schwarzenegger is proposing that the California Department of Transportation forge ahead with some construction projects that are tied up in court over environmental issues. One is a $165-million carpool-lane expansion on U.S. 50 in Sacramento that a judge has delayed because of the amount of greenhouse gas emissions it could generate, among other concerns.Protections would also be lifted on a freeway-widening project through an ecologically sensitive area of coastal San Diego County and on a controversial plan to drill a tunnel into the Berkeley Hills. And Schwarzenegger wants to empower a panel of his appointees to waive environmental rules on other projects.” – LA Times.

You know, when the governor initially said he wanted to fast track infrastructure projects, I assumed that he was speaking of major clean energy power generation/efficiency facilities, water conservation/quality projects, and mass-transit upgrades… I’m starting to think that these weren’t the projects he had in mind.

Toxics Being Discharged into LA County Waters: According to an LA Times article last week, Heal the Bay has uncovered that water quality regulators have been lax on enforcing water quality regulations, and on developing mandated standards. LINK.  While it is always important to know and keep updated about toxic’s in ourlocal waters, I wasn’t exactly sure why this was really newsworthy. So, to investigate further, took a look at the study which is on Heal the Bay’s web site, Link, and now I get the sense that it’s less of a story about some new dramatic finding, and more a story on a study’s findings, which are less than surprising. Here is the conclusion of the study:

Only 126 priority pollutants are regulated under the California Toxics Rule, yet thousands of toxic chemicals are used every day. Toxicity testing is the safety net of the Clean Water Act, but only if the toxicity results are used to target polluted effluent and the clean-up of toxic surface waters. Most of the region’s aquatic ecosystems have degraded biological integrity. One of the most important actions to protect aquatic life is to ensure that receiving waters are not toxic. As explained by the EPA, an enforceable numeric toxicity limit is the most protective strategy for aquatic life, and there should be enforcement actions taken against those dischargers that create conditions which are harmful to aquatic life. Currently, whole effluent toxicity testing is not being used effectively as a regulatory tool to protect aquatic life in the Los Angeles Region, especially given the erosion of permit requirements from numeric limits to triggers in response to the State Board’s indecision in 2003. Because the State Board ruling in 2003 was statewide, similar results as found in this study in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties are expected statewide. It is time to repair the safety net and ensure that California’s waters and all dependent living organisms are adequately protected.”

Interesting yes, surprising, no. (Maybe I’m jaded though, since I’ve worked at Heal the Bay in the past, and these studies findings were obvious to the organization even then.)


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UCLA Extensions is hosting some great Public Policy seminars over the next few months. I’m defenitly going to try and make a one of two of them (note, they aren’t free, but they do have some scholarships for recent graduates). Click here for more information or to register. Here are the seminars: 

Successful CEQA Compliance: A Step-by-Step Approach – Feb 5 & 6:

Speakers:  Ron Bass, AICP, JD, Regulatory Compliance Specialist with ICF Jones & Stokes, a west coast consulting firm specializing in environmental planning and natural resources management.  Margaret Moore Sohagi, JD, President, The Sohagi Law Group, PLC, a Los Angeles-based law firm representing public agencies.

Planning Commissioners Traning – Feb 12:

Speakers: Kevin G. Ennis, Shareholder, Richards, Watson & Gershon, Los Angeles California. Rick Cole, City Manager of Ventura, Ventura California. Robert Garcia, Executive Director, The City Project. Acquanetta Warren, Deputy Public Works Director, Public Works Department, City of Upland

Water Law & Policy – Feb 20:

Speakers: Scott S. Slater, Shareholder, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, Los Angeles, California, author California Water Law and Policy. Russell McGlothlin, Associate, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, Los Angeles, California, co-author of the California Groundwater Management Handbook.

Mello-Roos and Special Financing: 2009 Update on Issues and Practices – Feb 27: 

Speakers: Check web site for speakers

CEQA and Climate Change – Mar 5: 

Speakers: Ron Bass, JD, AICP, Senior Regulatory Specialist, ICF Jones & Stokes, a west coast consulting firm specializing in environmental planning and natural resources management. Margaret Moore Sohagi, JD, President of The Sohagi Law Group, PLC, a Los Angeles-based law firm representing public agencies. 

The Subdivision Map Act: An Introduction and 2009 Update – Mar 6: 

Speakers: M. Thomas Jacobson, AICP, JD, Professor of Environmental Studies and Planning, Director of the Institute for Community Planning Assistance at Sonoma State University. Larry Wiener, JD, Partner, Richards, Watson & Gershon, Los Angeles, specializing in land use law, infrastructure financing, and CEQA.

Designing & Implementing Effective Zoning Ordinances – Mar 26: 

Speakers: Bruce Jacobson Principal, Jacobson & Wack, a consulting firm specializing in comprehensive zoning ordinance preparation.  Ron Pflugrath has over 35 years of varied urban planning experience, including positions with California cities and consulting firms.

Also interesting: A new lecture series being presented by UCLA Extensions and RAND Corp, called “More than a Soundbite: stimuLAte” – This event is on Mar 9, and is much less expensive than the other events (only $35). The topic of the first of the four programs in the series is “Challenges of the Gulf Region” focusing on Iran and Iraq.

Click here for more information or to register.

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[Originally published by the Los Angeles Daily News.  http://www.dailynews.com/editorial/ci_9812232]

By Ruth Galanter

Who can explain why Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the Department of Water and Power keep telling us to use less water and electricity, but the city continues to permit “water features” in new development?

Check out trendy shopping centers, new hotels and office developments, and even the Port of Los Angeles.  Everywhere you go, there’s a pool or a fountain with water evaporating under our famous sunshine.

Yes, I know, “it’s all recycled.” Hogwash. Some of it evaporates, some of it spills and dries up, and the rest is pumped around by – you guessed it – the very electricity we’re supposed to conserve.

There is something wrong with this picture, but there is no good excuse.

Sure the permits go through the Planning Department and the Building and Safety Department, while the water and power issues go through the Department of Water and Power. But isn’t our “environmental” mayor in charge of all of these? Isn’t our commitment to conservation and sustainability a commitment by the city of Los Angeles, not just an isolated department here or there?

The Department of Water and Power itself has open-air pools surrounding its downtown headquarters. I’ve been told for years that those pools are necessary for cooling something, but surely they too could be protected from excess evaporation or at least used for cooling ambient tourists’ sore feet.

What kind of message are we sending when we talk conservation of water and electricity – indeed threaten financial penalties for overuse – but then display running water all over the neighborhoods?

It’s the same kind of doublespeak as when the members of the City Council said they had to have the city supply them with hybrid cars or else they’d have to use their personal SUVs. If they want the rest of us to purchase hybrids instead of SUVs, why can’t they do the same? At their salaries, they can certainly afford to put their personal money where their mouths are.

City zoning and building regulations already include all kinds of requirements, such as height restrictions, side-yard setbacks, and the minimum number of wall sockets in each room of a dwelling unit. I’m particularly proud of the city ordinance that requires low-water-use toilets in all single-family residences, an ordinance that occasioned much snickering when I introduced it, but turns out to save an incredible amount of water and to have revolutionized the manufacture of toilets.

The city has come a long way since that ordinance. So why is it that we still permit outdoor “water features”?

As a practical matter, eliminating this wasteful use of water and power requires that someone from the City Council introduce a proposed ordinance, and in today’s climate that may require that someone from the Mayor’s Office instruct a compliant council member to take the lead. One phone call would probably do it. Maybe two phone calls; one call to a council member requesting that she/he introduce a proposal for such an ordinance and another call to the director of planning requesting cooperation. That’s not so hard.

Wise use of resources is a wonderful and achievable goal, but it does require plugging loopholes and using our collective head. Exhorting city residents and businesses to use less water and power is a useful activity, but wise leadership leads by example as well as exhortation.

It’s time for the city to get with its own program.

Ruth Galanter is a former member and president of the Los Angeles City Council, on which she served for 16 years.

Originally published by the Los Angeles Daily News.  http://www.dailynews.com/editorial/ci_9812232

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Last Saturday, June 21, 2008, the KCRW show Good Food interviewed Elizabeth Royte, author of Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It. Ms. Royte discussed drinking water’s commercialization, tap water and the environmental impact of plastic water bottles.

With 50 million plastic water bottles consumed annually and with sales of bottled water continuing to increase, it is important for us to examine the costs associated with our drinking water, including our distribution system and local water supplies. In addition to the tremendous waste associated with bottled water, the amount of water used in the production of bottled water is 3 times the amount sold, and the amount of oil used in bringing bottled water to market is 1 quarter per every liter sold. Bottlemania’s website provides links for information on water testing, filters, and groups fighting to protect municipal water supplies.

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The LA Times CA section had an article this morning which highlighted findings from a recent Brookings Institute report. The report found that Los Angeles had the second lowest carbon footprint amongst major US Metropolitan area’s, after Honolulu. Third was Portland, and fourth was NYC. These findings are surprising, mostly because they are most likely wrong. So maybe what surprises me most, is that a oversimplified study with absurd assumptions could even get coverage at all. (more…)

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Heal the Bay’s annual beach report card was just released, and surprisingly, it had some good news! The beaches are cleaner! On the down side, part of what has made our beaches cleaner according to the report, is our drought. “Drier-than-average weather helped keep most ocean waters cleaner; in rainy conditions, however, more than half of Southern California beaches tested fair to poor for traces of fecal bacteria.”

So while our ocean water seems to be improving during dry spells, water quality continues to take a major hit during storms.

From the times: “For storm water pollution, we’re not doing a good job at all,” said Mark Gold, president of the Santa Monica-based nonprofit group Heal the Bay, which compiles the report. “The beaches are just as polluted today during rainstorms as they were 15 years ago. We’ve had so much progress in so many other, different areas of coastal protection, [yet] our beaches still look like landfills after every rain.”

While stormwater issues have been gaining momentum as of late, reports such as this will continue to make it an even bigger issue in the years to come. Cities of course, have not been ignoring the issue of stormwater pollution, this report produced by Community Conservancy International which outlines best practices for addresssing stormwater pollution, and summarizes what how southern california cities have been addressing and funding stormwater issues.

Another sign that stormwater issues are rising to the top, and is increasingly getting attention from policy makers, is a recent project the County of Los Angeles just initiated a couple weeks ago. The county approved a 4.5 million dollar contract to obtain support services to enable the County Flood Control District to “consider and prepare a fee proposal and proposition 218 mail ballot measure, to be approved and paid by property owners within the County Flood Control District, for funding water quality improvements and services related to stormwater and urban runoff pollution.” If this work does eventually lead to a measure being passed, it would create billions of dollars of funding for major stormwater pollution mitigation projects. In addition to the half billion dollar prop O measure that was passed just a few years ago, maybe we can begin to really make some major advances in the stormwater pollution cleanup efforts in the coming years.

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So you know the news must be big if Drudge links to it! Check out this article in the LA times on LA City’s plan to provide for the expected 15% increase in water consumption between now and 2030: LINK.

I’m not sure what reports the city staff looked out to create its proposal, but I sure hoped they looked at this report put out by the pacific institute: http://www.pacinst.org/reports/urban_usage/

Report findings/description: “Despite the progress California has already made in improving water efficiency, “Waste Not, Want Not” estimates that up to one-third of California’s current urban water use — more than 2.3 million acre-feet — can be saved using existing technology. And at least 85% of this savings (over 2 million acre-feet) can be saved at costs below what it will cost to tap into new sources of supply and without the social, environmental, and economic impacts that any major water project will bring.”

So, I guess it is great that we are thinking about water, but we need to keep our focus on three key words: Efficiency, Efficiency, Efficiency. Only when we’ve exhasted our simple efficiency options should we be rattling the community with discussions of toilet-to-tap.

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