Prepared Remarks for WATERSHED (the day-long Inquiry with Walking Water and TreePeople), from Christina Noonan, Member of the DWP Board of Commissioners.
 

At the request of Commissioner Noonan, These remarks were read to the assembly by Andy Lipkis, during the “New Story” round table of WATERSHED:

Water is our most precious resource. It is what sustains life and connects us.

This truth was never so evident to me than when I was asked to serve on the Inyo/LA Standing Committee. This committee addresses the local issues affecting Owens Valley and the LA Aqueduct, which was engineered by Mr. Mulholland over 100 years ago to allow Los Angeles to flourish and become the second largest economy in the nation today.

Historically, this aqueduct has provided Los Angeles with 30% of its water supply, but DWP has purposely reduced its reliance on this water source to be conscientious of the needs of local Owens Valley residents.

It is a known fact that we did abuse this water resource many, many decades ago… years before I was born…a fact that makes me finally feel youthful once again!

As a commissioner of the DWP, I have spent seven years getting to know the agricultural and Native American communities of Owens Valley.

I have witnessed the impact of decisions made decades ago on their local watershed, land, livelihood and quality of life.

As a mother, I was personally moved by the heartfelt stories of Native American mothers who provided testimony at several DWP board meetings … describing the hardships their families had endured from depleted water resources all the while we were purchasing water from MWD at a premium to afford water to our shared community.

Despite this effort…I learned that children of the Big Pine Tribe were not able to bathe daily local gardens—a main food resource for many families—were dying and livestock animals were suffering because a 75-year-old main irrigation pipe that provided water to this community had finally broke.

So, today’s discussion should not only address water supplies and conservation efforts…it should also address investing in our infrastructure to ensure our collective water needs are met.

Once DWP repaired this main pipeline, I received photos of children joyously embracing their renewed water source. It is for these moments that I sacrifice innumerous hours of my time to proudly serve as a commissioner.

Managing our most precious resource with equity, balance and kindness is a priority to me. And this is not limited to just local issues.

On our own initiative, the Department reached out to Puerto Rico to offer assistance with their electrical and water needs.

This is only one example of what can be accomplished when communities come together to gain a deeper understanding of our shared needs and shared responsibility.

Together, we must all commit to a cooperative stewardship of our natural resources and to work on solutions to overcome the growing water risk we all face.

We have witnessed the far reaching devastation of this year’s hurricane season, which should serve as a wake up call for us all. I don’t need to remind you that we are facing extreme weather patterns which are the most visible and devastating hallmarks of climate change.

Threats posed by climate change such as hotter temperatures, severe flooding and water shortages are affecting crop yields in many parts of the world and driving up food prices. And climate models predict the worse is yet to come. By the year 2050, water demands are projected to increase by 55% and food demands by 60% due to population growth.

Our response to this threat should be bold, visionary and fiscally responsible. We must put into place water-smart plans to mitigate the impact of climate change.

Our Mayor and General Manager Wright have set lofty, yet measurable goals for improvement investments in water conservation technology, which can and will be met by such deadlines.

At the DWP, we are proud of what we have been able to achieve as a community. Angelenos have stepped up to help reduce LA’s water use by 20%. In fact, we use less water today than we did 40 years ago, with a million more people.

DWP has researched the best of practices, and we are dedicated to outdoor conservation programs like our turf removal rebates—which we recently increased to encourage more sustainable landscaping—as well as other institutional and commercial programs.

At the same time, we understand that conservation alone will not be enough to create a resilient future.  We must capture, clean, store, recharge our aquifers and efficiently use our precious rain water.

We are focusing on stormwater capture, groundwater replenishment and water recycling to expand our local water supplies in Los Angeles… and, I must take a moment to applaud Andy Lipkis and Tree People for partnering with us on this front. Their expertise is invaluable and should be recognized.

We are developing projects to capture stormwater both in centralized and distributed facilities. This includes capturing the extraordinary amounts of runoff from the Sierras, which were inundated with snow last winter.

We have also adjusted how we spread water throughout the Owens Valley to protect the infrastructure investments in Owens Lake, including an old water conveyance tunnel, the Maclay Highline. Starting next month it will allow us to put additional water (130 acre feet a day) from our Aqueduct into the spreading basins in the San Fernando Valley, where it will filter down into the city aquifer and become drinking water.

As we at the DWP fulfill our mission to deliver water to Los Angeles, we aim for a sustainable water future for all. I would like to acknowledge our Mayor, the board members and employees of DWP, and Tree People for their commitment to…

• forging long-term and new partnerships,

• educating our community and inspiring personal responsibility

• investing both fiscally and creatively

• and to protecting Angelenos as well as people across our county and state lines.

I hope that my story today is just a beginning.

I look forward to bridging greater empathy and cooperation between the people of Los Angeles and Owens Valley.

I am committed to restoring greater trust and accountability for all involved.

And, I look forward to a day when we view the stewardship of our resources as one.

WATER is our common ground. And so is OUR HUMANITY. I believe our future depends on both.

I thank each of you for considering my thoughts, experience and vision.