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Los Angeles May Now Require Rainwater Harvesting

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Los Angeles has proposed a new water management law that would require rainwater harvesting on all new homes, large developments, as well as on some redevelopment projects. The Department of Public Works unanimously approved the new ordinance in January for the increasingly parched region. It requires various methods to capture, reuse or infiltrate all of the rainwater runoff that is generated by a 3/4 inch rainstorm.

water barrelThese rain barrels have been made from recycled cherry containers.

Sustainable Water Management Is Our Future

In addition to encouraging the use of rain storage tanks, builders would be required to use other low-cost and sensible water management methods; these include simple measures, like diverting rainfall to gardens, constructed infiltration swales, mulch and permeable pavement, all of which will help to sustainably direct the rain directly where it falls. Any builders who are unable to manage 100% of a project’s runoff on-site would be required to pay a penalty of $13 a gallon for the water that is not safely redirected. This fee will help to fund sustainable off-site water management projects.


Not only will Los Angeles’ new ordinance help to recycle our planet’s most precious resource, it will also help to keep polluted urban water out of our increasingly acidic seas. The Board of Public Works Commissioner Paula Daniels, who initially drafted the ordinance last July, explained that the new requirements would prevent over 104 million gallons of polluted urban runoff from ending up in the ocean. Daniels’ work is also informed by having served on the California Coastal Commission.

Designing water management systems which help to control rainwater runoff at its local source, with a variety of small, cost-effective natural systems, instead of massive expensive and inefficient chemically intensive treatment facilities, is very smart planning. In drought-stricken southern California, this proposed regulation truly demonstrates visionary leadership. Water recycling and more sustainable water management practices are an inevitable part of our future.

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