City leaders are all but guaranteeing water will once again begin flowing into the Silver Lake Reservoir by May 1. "That is a goal we must reach, and we shall," said City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell said Tuesday night at a packed town hall. Fellow councilman David Ryu agreed. "We’re going to hold [DWP] accountable," he said. "Anything that needs to happen ... we’ll push it through."
But even if the city makes that deadline, it’s going to take a little while to completely refill the lake to its historical level of 440 feet above sea level. As Los Angeles Department of Water and Power officials explained to the fairly crestfallen crowd, that process could take a year or more.
In part, that’s because the reservoir is no longer outfitted with the necessary infrastructure for a faster refill. The much-beloved lake was completely drained last year so that new piping could be installed rerouting its water supply to the city’s massive new water storage facility north of Griffith Park. In the future, the lake will have to be fed by smaller pipes that have not yet been installed.
Once in place, water from these pipes should cover the lake bed within a month, but it will take many more months after that to return the lake to its historic level.
Many area residents at the meeting expressed frustration with the long delay in getting water back into the lake. One commenter said that dust rising from the lake bed has become "intolerable," and in recent months an advocacy group called "Refill Silver Lake Now" has formed to push the city to do just that.
Officials at the meeting also addressed the question of where that water will come from. When plans to take the reservoir offline were initially put forward several years ago, they called for the lake to be refilled with drinking water. Given the realities of the state’s persistent drought, that’s no longer an option.
DWP Director of Water Operations Marty Adams said there are potential water sources, but it's clear department officials feel strongly that only one would really be viable. Though stormwater and recycled water were discussed briefly, Adams maintained that groundwater was the only option that could begin supplying the reservoir by May.
To access this water, the city plans to tap into existing but unused wells, laying 2,300 feet of new pipe feeding the reservoir between now and May.
Much of this pipe will be installed beneath Fletcher Drive, and officials at the meeting set out to reassure area residents that traffic on that thoroughfare would be minimally affected by construction."We’ll be in and out in a couple months," Adams said.
Others at the meeting expressed frustration that, with the lake dry for over a year, water officials appeared to be only now coming up with a solution. Adams acknowledged that DWP could have done more to investigate alternatives to potable water for the reservoir sooner, but stressed that the agency was caught off guard by the severity of the drought.
Councilmembers Ryu and O’Farrell continued to reiterate that they are working hard to make sure the reservoir is refilled in a timely manner. Meanwhile, in a surprise appearance, Assemblyman Mike Gatto pledged to do his part at the state level, stressing that the project is "deeply personal" for him, given that he owns two properties with views of the lake.
Gatto also took the crowd by surprise by mentioning the possibility that the state of California could purchase the lake from DWP, bringing it into the state park system. That suggestion was met with tentative applause, though further discussion of that idea will have to wait until November, when a third and final meeting will be held discussing future plans for the preservation and potential reimagining of the reservoir.
Due to a change in federal law, the city is taking open air reservoirs like Silver Lake and its miniature next door neighbor Ivanhoe off line and replacing them with covered storage facilities.
The shade ball-covered Ivanhoe reservoir will be drained next, though Adams says he wants to use some of that water to help refill Silver Lake a little more quickly.
- The Silver Lake Reservoir Will Be Refilled—Probably in Spring [Curbed LA]
- Everything to Know About the Emptying of the Silver Lake Reservoir, Coming Soon [Curbed LA]
- There's No Water to Refill the Silver Lake Reservoir [Curbed LA]