A ripple effect in Los Angeles continues from WaterBuild 2016

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A charrette-style session that took place at WaterBuild 2016 is helping make Los Angeles more water-resilient. In preparation for WaterBuild 2017, here’s a look back at the part of last year’s program that focused on local issues.

The challenge

In April 2016, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors directed county departments to create a forward-thinking water efficiency ordinance that seeks to make the county more water-resilient. At the time, only local California governments, such as San Luis Obispo County and the City of Santa Monica, had implemented water-neutral development ordinances. Though the L.A. County Board of Supervisors’ proposed policy was not the first, it would have the largest reach—L.A. County has a larger population than 42 states, and the areas the ordinance specifically targets consist of over a million people.

WaterBuild 2016

In partnership with USGBC Los Angeles, USGBC worked with Los Angeles County and the City of Los Angeles to tackle this challenge and kick-start stakeholder discussions. In November 2016, at the inaugural WaterBuild Summit at Greenbuild Los Angeles, a charrette-style session titled “Towards Net Zero Water in Los Angeles County” brought together nearly three dozen Greenbuild participants to help the county brainstorm approaches to reducing water consumption.

Public officials from L.A. County and the City of Los Angeles facilitated tables of lively discussions among Greenbuild attendees. Participants tackled issues such as water data management, the costs and benefits of various water conservation and water reuse strategies, centralized and decentralized system solutions and how best to maximize public engagement throughout the process.

The result

A year later, L.A. County successfully built on the dialogue at WaterBuild and subsequent community conversations and developed a strong draft ordinance. Given the need to further engage relevant stakeholders, the Board of Supervisors granted the ordinance workgroup a one-year extension, to be finalized by April 2018.

The current draft proposes a set of nine enhanced water conservation measures (EWCMs) that may be required of all new development. The EWCMs range from the instillation of water-efficient plumbing, like kitchen faucets and Energy Star dishwashers, to rainwater catchment systems for landscape irrigation.

More specifically, renovations of single-family residences must feature at least one measure, while entirely new construction of single and multifamily residences must meet at least two measures and also potentially pay a mitigation fee to offset water use. In addition, the policy proposes a requirement for all buildings, both commercial and residential, to be retrofitted with water-efficient fixtures at resale, exempting affordable housing projects with the expectation that they build in the most efficient manner possible.

What’s next?

L.A. County’s new water conservation policy promises big results after adoption, and it sets a new standard for local water policy, encouraging governments statewide to make water conservation a California way of life, as it now is for state facilities. The City of Los Angeles, specifically, has prioritized water efficiency through Mayor Garcetti’s OneWater LA initiative, aiming to locally source 50 percent of the city’s water supply by 2035. The ensuing effort from Los Angeles has led to investments in green stormwater infrastructure, water reuse and recycling and new treatment methods.

We look forward to seeing Los Angeles County and the City of Los Angeles take these important next steps implementing some of the ideas discussed at Waterbuild 2016 into smart water policy in California.

USGBC will host the next chapter in our water resilience series at WaterBuild 2017 at Greenbuild 2017 in Boston. Participants will be invited to dive into a local issue focused on a set of land development issues in one of the largest areas in Boston slated for redevelopment.

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