Could water-hungry cities starve the LA River of treated waste water? The answer could mean bad news for habitat renewal

What most Angelinos don’t realize is that 90% of the Los Angeles River’s water comes from treated waste water from Los Angeles, Burbank and  other local municipalities. (Credit: Bob Blankenship)

Read the entire article from the Los Angeles Times:

Just north of downtown — and a stone’s throw from the growling 5 Freeway — the concrete bed of the Los Angeles River gives way to soft earth and an explosion of riparian life: Cottonwood and sycamore trees push skyward, while fish dart beneath the swooping shadows of cackling waterfowl. The scents of mulefat scrub and sage hang in the air.

For many, it’s a vision of what the Los Angeles River looked like before it was transformed into a massive flood control channel. It also serves as a rallying point for those environmentalists who want to see the river returned to a more natural state.

But what few Angelenos realize is that for much of the year, this thriving river habitat is sustained by a constant flow of treated wastewater.

Although melting snowpack and torrential rains send water coursing along the river from time to time, most of the water originated from the sinks, dishwashers, bathtubs, toilets and washing machines of millions of homes and businesses before it was treated in sewage plants and released into the river.

Now, as climate change stokes recurring cycles of drought, cities are increasingly looking to recycle this treated wastewater even before it reaches the river’s graffiti-marred concrete. With Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti pledging to recycle 100% of the city’s wastewater by 2035, and the cities of Burbank and Glendale also looking to increase wastewater recycling, the 51-mile river has suddenly become a battleground between environmentalists and wastewater recycling advocates.

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