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New management strategies may help Los Angeles avoid future water crises

Dec. 19 (UPI) — Los Angeles’ population continues to grow, putting added pressure on the city’s water supply.

However, scientists have come up with a new to avoid future water crises. The plan recommends new water management strategies and infrastructure improvements for the Southern California metropolis.

Earlier this year, Cape Town, South Africa, experienced a severe water crises. Residents were forced to take two-mixture showers, let their lawns and gardens dry and limit their total water intake to approximately 13 gallons per day. Cape Town’s climate is similar to Los Angeles.

To avoid future crises, scientists spent a decade studying Los Angeles’ complex water supply system. Their analysis revealed a number of solutions. Through infrastructure improvements, improved management strategies and institutional collaboration, authors of the new plan think Los Angeles can avoid Cate Town’s fate.

“The Los Angeles County metropolitan region, we find, could transition to a nearly water self sufficient system,” researchers wrote in the journal Environmental Management.

In the report, scientists argue Los Angeles must become more resourceful, optimizing localized water sources while curbing its reliance on faraway sources. To do so, communities don’t need to simply shift strategies, they need to improve their infrastructure.

“First of all, it’s fragile,” Stephanie Pincetl, director of the California Center for Sustainable Communities at UCLA, said in a news release — speaking of Los Angeles’ water infrastructure. “Second, precipitation patterns aren’t going to be the same going forward in the 21st century.”

Over the last half-decade, Los Angeles experienced four years of drought followed by a year of heavy precipitation.

But authors of the new study believe Los Angeles and its water system can adapt to such climate variability, taking advantage of wet years, while remaining prepared for dry years.

Researchers recommend reducing the water demands of yards and landscaping,and swapping out species with high water demands for plants better adapted to semi-arid conditions. Scientists warn that such a transition must happen strategically — in a way that maintains and improves the region’s canopy, so as to minimize the urban heat effect.

Study authors also recommend increased use of captured stormwater and recycled water.

To marry infrastructure improvements with smarter water management strategies, researchers argue the region’s institutions must reorganize to promote better cooperation.

“I think infrastructure challenges are a lot less difficult to surmount than institutional challenges. Agencies don’t want to lose their viability or their purpose and funding,” Pincetl said. “The hardest part is really to change the institutions we’ve created.”

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