Los Angeles Looks for Extra Water Down Its Alleys

Of the roughly 300,000 acres in the city of Los Angeles, more than 2,000 are alleyways that cut through city blocks. And because they’re mostly paved, they do little to capture one of the city’s most prized resources: water.
Following the examples set by Chicago, Seattle and other cities, Los Angeles is working to transform these narrow spaces into networks of green alleys.
The main purpose, beginning with a green alley network in the South Park neighborhood of South Los Angeles, is to capture some of the storm water that is otherwise lost.
“In my mind, the green alley project has a much greater value in Los Angeles than it does in other places that don’t have a water shortage,” said Heather Repenning, a commissioner of the city’s Board of Public Works.
As California enters the fifth year of its drought, city officials hope that these alleys save as many drops as possible, as part of a larger project to increase the storm water captured, to 50 billion gallons by 2035 from 8.8 billion gallons now.
With storm drains and paving materials that allow water to seep through, the alleys funnel water into underground storage receptacles, preventing water from rain, hoses, fire hydrants and other sources from making its way, through sewers, drains and concrete riverbeds, to the ocean, picking up pollutants along the way.
The project, a joint effort by the city’s agencies, its Council and the Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit organization that works to protect natural land and create parks, is intended to improve Los Angeles’s water quality and drought resilience, Ms. Repenning said.

Los Angeles, she added, was trying to reduce its reliance on “imported water,” from elsewhere in California and neighboring states, by half by 2025.
“Part of that is using the water that we have — storm water and wastewater,” Ms. Repenning said.
The newest alley, soon to be finished between East 51st and 52nd Streets off South Avalon Boulevard, is expected to capture more than 700,000 gallons of water a year.
A nearby alley, completed in 2015, saved more than 750,000 gallons in its first year. By the time the project is finished, there will be at least five alley networks in South Los Angeles.
Shahram Kharaghani, a manager of the city’s watershed protection program, said that amid the drought, “I have to look for water wherever I can,” and that the 900 miles of alleys in the city were a good place to start.
“I would make all of the alleys and all of the streets green,” Mr. Kharaghani said. “But the money just isn’t there.”
The green alley project has benefits beyond capturing water.
In South Los Angeles, the site of the existing and future green alleys, open spaces are few.
Nationally, there are 9.5 acres of open space per 1,000 residents, according to the National Recreation and Park Association. Los Angeles County has 3.3 acres of public space per 1,000 people, and South Los Angeles only about half an acre, according to a countywide report on parks.
The Trust for Public Land, which aims to get the nation’s 100 biggest cities to commit to making a 10-minute walk to a park possible for all Americans, sees the open space in alleys as an underused resource: According to the organization, 20,000 people live within a half-mile of the green alley under construction, and the organization hopes that the networks can be used for biking, walking, playing and gardening.

Published: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/12/science/climate-change-alley-ways-water.html?_r=0

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