SoCal NAF-Biz Water Management in California

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Water Management in California. What can California learn from other Nations (The Netherlands)? 

The Netherland-America Foundation SoCal Chapter organized a panel discussion on Water Management in California at the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator own July 28th 2016. The purpose of this event was to address the current water crisis that we are facing in California due to the severe drought and the ever-changing climate and how we can reverse the effects of the drought. Therefore we invited the following panel members to examine the cause and effect of the current drought in California and to produce solutions: John Morris, John has over 50 years experience in planning and designing water and wastewater facilities. Liz Crosson -M.S. in Biology/Environmental Education current Water policy advisor for the Mayor’s Office Los Angeles, David Pettijohn – M.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Arizona. and current Director of Water Resources with the LADWP. Nancy Sutley – M.S. in Public Policy from Harvard and Chief Sustainability and Economic Development Officer for the LADWP. Peter Wijsman Master degree in International Land and Water Management from the University of Wageningen (The Netherlands).

The event was opened by Jeff Keasberry, President of the Netherland-America Foundation and moderated by Johnny Beenes, native of the Netherlands and a member of the Netherlands American Foundation. The first speaker, Pui San Tam from the Consulate General of the Netherlands in San Francisco, gave a presentation on the several water conservation projects around the world that are being managed by the Dutch Government. These projects are key examples of how countries can protect themselves against the water coming from the ocean and how they can successfully preserve more drinking water.

John Morris highlighted the history of water management in California and how in previous years the water preservation goals were all met. He answered the question to why we are in this situation, by stating that the Metropolitan Water District was not able to predict and envision the extreme weather change and subsequent drought that we face today due to the extreme climate changes. Liz Crosson stated that Los Angeles currently is on track towards a sustainable future. In fact, Los Angeles wants to reduce 50% of the water that is currently being imported by 2025 and by 2035 50% from all our drinking water will be sourced locally. Is that too ambitious? Considering the fact that the population in Los Angeles is growing and the climate is changing. These stats can all be tracked online via: Currently the locally source water sits at 19.6% and this is on track with the budget.

According to David Pettijohn this is an ambitious number, but can be achieved. Agreed is that we need to recycle more of our wastewater, as mentioned by the audience. Singapore and The Netherlands are currently recycling their sewage sludge back into drinking water. In Singapore the government gives out free bottles of water that are branded as “NEWater” with the drinking water that is made out of sewage sludge. We can adopt their strategies over here, this will make sure that we reach out set goals for water management in Los Angeles.  Nancy Sutley discussed the projects that we are working on to make sure that our coastal drink water basins aren’t going to be affected by the rising sea levels. We need every drop of drinking water, so we need to keep our current water storage away from the sea.

Peter Wijsman explained the different strategies on how to protect the Californian coast against the rising sea levels and how California can protect the delta of the Colorado River in Northern California. He also elaborated on the differences between water management in The Netherlands and Los Angeles, California. During rain in the The Netherlands, the Dutch try to get the water out to the Ocean as fast as possible to prevent flooding. This is exactly the same strategy that is being followed in Los Angeles, California. However, since most of the country of the Netherlands is below sea level we have plenty of water and we don’t need to store the water. Besides, we have plenty of rain throughout the year. Johnny Beenes mentioned that there are about 300 days of rain, compared to the 15 days of rain a year in Los Angeles. Los Angeles will really have to look for different strategies to maintain rain water and stop sending this rain water straight to the see (via the sewage and the LA River).

At the end of the presentations the audience members were able to ask additional questions. Some of the questions were:  what is being done with the Water Technologies that have been presented by the Dutch delegates? Are we able to implement these strategies here in Los Angeles? Why wouldn’t we look at other nations in the first place instead of trying to reinvent the wheel. Both the Mayor’s Office and the LADWP answered that they are currently incentivizing water saving projects. These projects vary from using additional recycled water throughout the LA County as well as to toilets that use less water to flush. Current building owners will get subsidized to replace toilets and new buildings that are being build need to meet the updated building codes with toilets that are wasting less water.

The Netherland-America Foundation has made a pledge to track the progress and implementation of the ideas that were presented during presentation and panel discussion. In a year from now we will email all the visitors with the latest results and the latest updates on reducing our water usage. With the help of the audience and the panel discussion we can provide you with the following conclusion to reverse the water shortage crisis. In order for us to have plenty of water, we will need to waste less water by using toilets that waste less water, implement lawns that can withstand the dry ground in Los Angeles and use less water to be maintained. The council will need to make sure that the water from the LA River water recycled and doesn’t end up in the ocean.

We would like to thank the panel speakers for their expertise and time to making this event a success, the LACI for allowing us to use their auditorium and for organizing a free tour for our guests around the building. We also want to thank the Consulate of the Netherlands, our sponsor KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. A special thanks to Arcadis for presenting multiple ideas on how to improve the Water Management in California.

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