A splashy return to the good old days is in the works for the LA River near the Los Angeles State Historic Park, where artists, engineers, and bureaucrats are working on a proposal to place an actual, functional water wheel in the river, on the south side of the North Broadway Bridge. Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky's blog shares that the 60-foot water wheel, called "La Noria" (Spanish for water wheel), would move 28 million gallons of water that would actually help irrigate the state park. That much water could save more than $100,00 a year. Metabolic Studio, led by artist and Annenberg heiress Lauren Bon, is designing the water wheel with financial support from the Annenberg Foundation (exact costs are still unknown, but are expected to reach the multiple millions of dollars).
Considering that Lauren Bon has a history of provocative installations in the neighborhood, including 2005's "Not a Cornfield" exhibit, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the water wheel is meant for more than just utilitarian purposes. Eastsider points out that "La Noria" will be located near the 1860s site of a water wheel on the Zanja Madre, "the original aqueduct that brought water to the Pueblo de Los Angeles from the Rio Porciuncula (Los Angeles River)," according to Wikipedia. As a gesture to LA's infamous history with aqueducts, Metabolic Studio is working to deliver "La Noria" in time to coincide with the hundreth anniversary of the dedication of the Los Angeles Aqueduct on November 5, 2013. Bon tells Zev's Blog, "This work is about saying we need to do a lot better very quickly with figuring out two things: how to retain our water and how to send the rest of it out to sea cleaner."
Of course, the project must still navigate a bureaucratic maze before it can offer any perspective. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority owns the land and the county Department of Public Health would issue the permit allowing use of the river water for irrigation. Moreover, "No fewer than four city departments also must sign off on different aspects of the plan--Water and Power, Planning, Building and Safety and the Bureau of Engineering--along with the state parks department, the Regional Water Quality Control Board, the county Flood Control District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Metrolink, whose trains run right past the site regularly, also is an interested party." At least some of the more interested parties already seem willing: the Los Angeles River Cooperation Committee already gave the project the go-ahead back in July.
And if you're excited about the return of analog technology to the LA River, you can get a sneak preview of the whole idea tonight at a community open house (pdf) to be held at Metabolic Studio. Visitors will have the chance to check out the public debut of an aluminum prototype of the proposed water wheel.