A Vision for the Future

A VISION FOR THE FUTURE: CIRCA 2025

The Los Angeles Region is a model of sustainable urban water management.

Acting together, government, businesses, and communities throughout the Los Angeles region have developed a newly integrated approach to managing regional water and land resources for economic vitality and environmental health. Criticized in the 20th Century for its overdependence on imported water while concrete-lined channels flushed much of the basin’s own rainfall rapidly to the sea, the Los Angeles region has become a model of sustainable urban watershed management. Multiple-objective planning, incorporating improvements in water supply, water quality, flood protection, habitat and recreation, has led to a balance of natural and human-made systems, even with substantial population and economic growth.

The fully integrated flood protection/water conservation system, carefully managing both mountain and urban stormwater runoff, conserves a great majority of the region’s available rainfall. The Los Angeles region, while still dependent on imported water, now provides a far greater proportion of its own water needs than the previous generation could have imagined.

Water resources are managed efficiently, taking full advantage of conservation measures, waste water reuse, and storm water infiltration.

Reusing household water and capturing rainwater for irrigation have become standard practices for homeowners and owners of large parcels alike. Across the watershed stormwater is held and reused onsite rather than discharged to the rivers and ocean. Use of recycled water has expanded to include groundwater recharge.

Parking lots, playgrounds and other previously asphalted areas have been resurfaced to reduce urban runoff and significantly lessen flood hazards. Many multi-purpose stormwater detention areas, large and small, provide improved flood protection and groundwater recharge. New recreational facilities offer ready access to once park-poor neighborhoods, with many parks also serving to detain stormwater.

In the San Gabriel Mountains, within the Angeles National Forest, the headwaters of the watershed, integrated forest management has reduced the risk and intensity of wildfire, improving air quality and reducing erosion. The rate of sediment build-up in both water supply and flood protection reservoirs has been dramatically reduced.

Groundwater contamination has been significantly reduced, water management practices improved, and recycling is expanded.

Groundwater contamination has been significantly reduced, waste management practices improved, and recycling has expanded throughout the watershed. Cost-effective stormwater management practices by cities and industry have improved water quality in all the major water bodies of the region. Water quality in all of the region’s water bodies and the ocean now fully supports a variety of beneficial uses. Recreational beach closures resulting from contaminated stormwater runoff are only a memory. Water recreation has become increasingly popular throughout the watershed. People boat, canoe, windsurf, fish and swim in the restored water bodies.

Native habitat is significantly increased and barriers to fish passage reduced; landscaping with native and drought-tolerant plants is viewed as the ideal for the region.

Portions of the two main rivers and their tributaries are broad, soft-bottomed areas where the dry season flow meanders and wet season flow inundates. Here the rivers look and work much as they did before urbanization. In these areas, river beds are populated with sycamore, willows and other native plants. Fish, birds and other wildlife have repopulated the restored habitat. Steelhead trout swim upriver to spawn. A network of trail and riparian corridors from the mountains to the sea interlinks these protected wildlife habitats. Restored wetlands reduce flooding, improve water quality and recharge groundwater.

Throughout Southern California, native and other Mediterranean plantings, well adapted to the region’s climate, have largely replaced thirsty tropicals and lush green lawns. This change to native and drought tolerant plantings has enhanced the regional landscape with varieties of colors, textures, and scents. Populations of native animals are stable or increasing with the expansion of native habitat.

Native habitat is significantly increased and barriers to fish passage reduced; landscaping with native and drought-tolerant plants is viewed as the ideal for the region.

Portions of the two main rivers and their tributaries are broad, soft-bottomed areas where the dry season flow meanders and wet season flow inundates. Here the rivers look and work much as they did before urbanization. In these areas, river beds are populated with sycamore, willows and other native plants. Fish, birds and other wildlife have repopulated the restored habitat. Steelhead trout swim upriver to spawn. A network of trail and riparian corridors from the mountains to the sea interlinks these protected wildlife habitats. Restored wetlands reduce flooding, improve water quality and recharge groundwater.

Throughout Southern California, native and other Mediterranean plantings, well adapted to the region’s climate, have largely replaced thirsty tropicals and lush green lawns. This change to native and drought tolerant plantings has enhanced the regional landscape with varieties of colors, textures, and scents. Populations of native animals are stable or increasing with the expansion of native habitat.

Our rivers are an asset to the region, contributing to civic pride and economic activity in livable communities.

For most of their urbanized length, the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers have become readily visible: sycamores and cottonwoods form a tall green line seen from dozens of neighborhoods. Native riparian shrubs and trees border both sides, with pedestrian and equestrian paths and commuter-recreational bikeways on one side or the other. Periodically, the linear river plantings widen into parks: some restored natural habitat, others recreational facilities.

Water recreation areas are formed within the main channels or in parallel channels. A distinctive park marks the confluence with each major tributary. At key points, interpretive exhibits explain the history and the function of the river system. River access ways, similar to coastal access points, abound. Thousands use the riverbanks for cycling, jogging and recreation. Along some urban reaches, offices, shops and cafes line pedestrian promenades overlooking the watercourses, with their water taxis and pedal boats. These controlled reaches lie outside the main flood flow of the principal channel.

Public investment and private initiative have made the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers system an urban asset. The rivers are now a front, not a back, to our urban neighborhoods. New housing, offices and industrial parks overlook riverside greenways. River frontage is a major force for urban redevelopment and new jobs. The rich diversity of uses and character along the revitalized rivers generates civic pride and economic activity in newly livable communities.

2 responses to “A Vision for the Future

  1. Excellent post.

  2. This is one of the best visions for the future I have ever seen an organization create. It’s detailed and inspiring. I commend you on this and hope to use it as a example for other organizations to follow. Indeed, we need far articulation of a clear vision in our work for change.

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