Recent history has demonstrated that water main breaks are just part of our lives here in Los Angeles now. UCLA flooding, Sunset Strip flooding—these and the many other leaks and bursts we don't see on the news (LA has about three a day by the LADWP's numbers) are a result of lots of old pipes that are aging faster than they can be replaced, or than the money can be raised to replace them. It kind of seems like LA will never get its old water infrastructure up to date, but Martin Adams, senior assistant general manager of the LADWP Water System tells KPCC's Take Two that it's really not as bad as it could be and explains a little about what's being done to keep things from getting worse. Here are the six most important things to know about LA's only-semi-leaky pipe system:
· Three leaks a day sounds like a lot, but compared to other cities, it's not so bad: "We're probably about only 60 percent of the national average for water main breaks," Adams says, adding that for a city with as much pipe as LA (7,000 miles!), we're actually doing alright.
· It used to be worse: "Our leaks are down about a third of what they were six to eight years ago" and replacements are up too. Five or six years ago, pipe replacements per year totaled about 11 miles; now, they've ramped up to 25 to 30 miles of pipe.
· Replacement rates have been revved up in an attempt to avoid a big-time problem: "We have a huge mountain of pipe that's going to hit the 100-year-plus range in the next decade, so we want to get ahead of the pipe."
· Not all old water mains are created equal. Only some old mains are considered "questionable," meaning they need urgent attention and should be prioritized for replacement. "Generally we think of questionable mains as old mains but there's a lot more to it. We look at the pipe material, how it was installed and what the soil around it is like, but age is a good indicator ... There's some older pipe that we don't see failures in that's different construction and methods."
· "There's probably maybe 20 to 25 percent of pipe that's getting to a range where we really want to get it replaced. Less than 10 percent we are really concerned about but there's a lot of pipe in the moderate range that's getting older fast so we need to address it systematically."
· LADWP is fully aware of how bad it looks to have streets flooded with water when there's a massive drought: "[T]he leaks are one thing but the importance of losing that water has really added a different level of understanding to getting on the leaks, so we are increasing our crews that are available to, not just fix the pipe, but respond to the leaks."
· LA water mains: Which to fix first before another bursts? [KPCC]
· How LADWP Shut Off the Gushing Water Main at UCLA [Curbed LA]
· Seven Scary Facts About Los Angeles's Aging Infrastructure [Curbed LA]