Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) Council member Nury Martinez and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works have broken ground on the Tujunga Spreading Grounds Enhancement Project to conserve more than five billion gallons of stormwater.

The project is a $29m expansion of an existing facility that will double its capacity to capture stormwater for local use.

Mayor Garcetti said: “We have to expand our local water supply, and that means investing in stormwater capture.

“The Tujunga Spreading Grounds Enhancement Project will double the amount of water we capture at this facility — an important step toward securing L.A.’s future in this historic drought. I’m grateful to our County partners for working with us to conserve and capture a precious resource.”

Currently, the Tujunga Spreading Grounds can capture and store about 8,000 acre-feet, or 2.5 billion gallons of water a year. Once the enhancement is complete in 2018, that capacity will expand to 16,000 acre-feet, or 5 billion gallons — enough water to supply 48,000 Los Angeles households every year.

In addition to conserving water, the enhancement will provide new open space and a walking path for neighborhood residents.

Councilmember Martinez said: “While we're building an environmentally sound improvement for our city, we're also beautifying the neighborhood nearby. 

“I'm especially proud that LADWP worked with the community to mitigate construction impacts on neighborhood residents by implementing a conveyor belt system to transport dirt off site, thereby taking trucks off our neighborhood streets and limiting traffic congestion."

The enhancement is part of LADWP’s Stormwater Capture Master Plan, which aims to expand Los Angeles’ local water supply and reduce the city’s reliance on imported water.

It also advances several of the objectives outlined in Mayor Garcetti’s Sustainable City pLAn, including the goal of increasing local stormwater capture to 150,000 acre-feet per year by 2035.

LADWP general manager David Wright said: "In the past, most stormwater was allowed to run off to the Pacific Ocean. Those days are over.

“With the Tujunga Spreading Grounds Enhancement Project, we ensure that these valuable water resources don’t go to waste.

"By doubling this site’s capacity L.A.’s greatest local water asset, the San Fernando Groundwater Basin, remains replenished with Los Angeles water for Angelenos to drink.” 

LADWP plans to continue implementing stormwater capture projects that reduce the amount of runoff lost to the ocean and make more local water available to Angelenos.

These projects include large-scale spreading grounds enhancements like the Tujunga enhancement, as well as smaller projects like green streets, rain gardens, and rain barrels.  

The Tujunga project is designed and managed by LA County Public Works. The department operates 14 major dams and 26 spreading grounds on behalf of the LA County Flood Control District, including the Tujunga Spreading Grounds facility.

LA County Public Works director Gail Farber said: "Capturing stormwater to recharge local groundwater supplies has always been part of the Flood Control District's mission.

“But the severity of the current drought and the challenges of climate change, population growth and an unreliable imported water supply require the combined attention and effort of the entire region. The City of Los Angeles has been a fantastic partner in this regard."