Flexible Water: Real-Time Rainwater Management for Multi-Agency Benefits by the Greater LA Water Collaborative
The City of Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, and the Los Angeles County Flood Control District are responding to numerous separate and overlapping water resource challenges on an accelerated timeline. A host of internal and external drivers compound these challenges, including multi-billion-dollar capital programs [e.g., the Stormwater Capture Master Plan (SCMP) and Enhanced Watershed Management Programs (EWMPs)], water use directives from both the municipal and state levels, considerable aging infrastructure awaiting deferred maintenance, and an imperative to win public support for funding crucial, but costly, climate-resilient, systemic solutions.
This project represents a novel approach to managing water-related issues in Los Angeles, leveraging the power of collaborative governance to address the myriad challenges confronting the region. The Greater LA Water Collaborative (Collaborative) demonstrates and quantifies the benefits of collaboration through the rapid, small-scale implementation of “smart” rainwater capture systems on private residential parcels. The project includes two principal, interdependent components: (1) the facilitation of collaborative governance among partner agencies – working to identify and promote synergies, as well as to uncover and overcome barriers, presented by a unified approach to water management; and, (2) a pilot-to-scale initiative featuring the installation of remotely monitored, distributed stormwater capture and control systems on several residential parcels – offering partner agencies a true opportunity to jointly own the planning, funding, execution and monitoring of a multi-benefit project, while at the same time allowing for accurate cost-benefit evaluations of distributed infrastructure projects across various water usage scenarios and implementation levels. By instrumenting the systems with monitoring and control technology, and by documenting the barriers and homeowner interest, this project will provide valuable data to inform programmatic decision making and future planning efforts (for instance, the EWMPs and SCMP both assume implementation of residential capture programs regionwide; this study will be the first to vet these assumptions at scale by using high-resolution Light Detection and Ranging data to quantify—at the parcel-scale—the Countywide maximum practicable extent of opportunities and levels of implementation).
Real-time monitoring and control of six pilot sites conducted throughout the 2015/2016 rainy season will provide data relevant to key agency metrics, including acre-feet of local water supply augmented, pounds of pollutant load reduced, and peak flow attenuation. An array of control logic, facilitated by predictive cloud-based software, was implemented at the sites to test various water management alternatives. After performance is field-assessed at the pilot sites, then long-term modeling will simulate additional configurations and management scenarios to estimate the regional effectiveness of a residential capture program with respect to overarching agency goals. The analysis will also evaluate the potential benefits of incorporating real-time controls into other stormwater management scales (e.g. green streets and regional facilities) to maximize performance of limited opportunities and funding. Presentation of the final results will include a wide array of useful visuals, including infographics, construction photographs, real-time demonstration of web-based dashboards, and clever syntheses of overlapping—or sometimes competing—metrics. Results of this scaling analysis could revolutionize the management of stormwater as a resource in Los Angeles by enabling pathways for multi-agency projects and by demonstrating to municipal program managers and practitioners the potential for real-time quantification and control of multi-agency benefits.