Water and Art meet in Downtown Los Angeles

Posted on January 11th, 2010 at 9:59 pm by Lisa Newton

Obviously in Los Angeles we don’t get nearly enough annual rainfall to serve our city and county’s population water needs. So when you turn on your faucet, do you know where that water comes from?

Topographical Map of Water Sources in County of Los Angeles

Believe it or not, most of California’s water supply comes from rain and snowfall. That’s right, even though we might not like it when rains, we need it and must have it to survive.

When I first moved here from the East Coast, I couldn’t believe how rare rain did fall. And in the summer, months go by without any precipitation. Even during our “rainy” season, weeks go by without a drop.

Hollywood Reservoir

You see, rain and snowfall turn into groundwater, which is basically rain that has trickled through rock layers, forming pools after many years, and surface water such as rivers and streams. The small streams and creeks feed the rivers. Then much of the water is then stored in reservoirs and aqueducts for use later on.

Rain Drops

“Our precipitation varies widely from year to year. In average years, close to 200 million acre-feet (MAF) of water falls in the form of rain or snow in California.

Over half of that water soaks into the ground, evaporates, or is used by native vegetation. That leaves somewhere around 82 million acre-feet of usable surface water in average years. Of that water:

  • 48% goes to environmental uses such as instream flows, wild and scenic river flows, required Delta outflow, and managed wetlands.
  • 41% is used by agriculture.
  • 9% is used by cities and industry.

Most of the rain and snowfall occurs between October and April, while demand is highest during the hot and dry summer months. About 75% of California’s available water occurs north of Sacramento, while about 80% of the demand occurs in the southern two-thirds of the state. Our groundwater provides about 40% of the state’s water supply. In dry years, that percentage can go as high as 60%.

California is prone to both droughts and floods. The most recent prolonged dry spell was a six-year drought from 1987 to 1992. The most severe drought on record occurred in two consecutive years, 1976 and 1977, in which California received very little precipitation and surface water reservoirs were extremely low.”  Source: Association of California Water Agencies

Why am I bringing all of this water information up now?

Los Angeles Hall of Records

First, because it’s that time of the year when we need to watch the weather reports.

BTW, rain is predicted for Wednesday, so don’t forget your umbrella.

Secondly, if you haven’t seen it yet, artist Joseph Young did a wonderful public art display, a “Topographical Map of Water Sources in County of Los Angeles,” measuring 20 feet high by 80 feet wide located at the Los Angeles Hall of Records, at 322 West Temple, in the heart of downtown.

To follow the map, the mountainous areas are black, valleys are brown, and the Pacific Ocean is a colorful mosaic of green and blue tile. Pinkish granite represents the County’s northern boundary at the Sierra Mountains.

I just happened to walk by one day while Travelin’ Local and saw it. And from that point, that’s when the seed of this story was just a concept and now you’ve read it.

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