March 18 2011

Los Angeles Approved Low Impact Development (LID) Ordinance

After over a year, the LID (Low Impact Development) Ordinance has finally made it past the Los Angeles Board of Public Works.  On January 15th, the Board unanimously approved a draft LID ordinance requiring that rainfall from a three-quarter inch storm at newly built houses, developments, and certain redevelopments either be captured and reused or infiltrated on site.  It only took commissioner meetings, several rounds of negotiations and countless public hearings at City Hall for the ordinance to get this far. Now the ordinance needs to be approved by the full City Council.

What LID essentially does is allow for developers to use several means of capturing, retaining and reusing water onsite for infiltration.  If these requirements cannot be met, developers pay into a storm water mitigation fund to help fund offsite LID projects like Green Streets.

But what does this mean for rain water harvesting and the future of LA’s rainwater?

Well we can’t really talk about the future without talking about the past.

LA is primarily a dessert so when people say LA is in a drought it never really fits. LA has been and always will be in a state of thirst.  On those few occasions when we have managed to get some rain why have we let it run down the asphalt streets and into the sea?  Our built environment is simply unable to absorb rainwater into our aquifers and instead sends it off to the Pacific Ocean as waste water.   Finding a better way to harvest our rainwater is what we are working on.

The city department responsible for implementation of the new ordinance is the LA Dept of Public Works, Bureau of Sanitation Storm Water Program. (Yes that’s the whole name).

This program has seen to it that there is a lot of stakeholder involvement.  Over the past year, DPW has held a series of meetings, produced a handbook to guide implementation of different LID strategies and put out Green Streets and Green Alleys Guidelines.  Working alongside the department  to create the handbook and develop the language of the ordinance were The Green LA Urban Ecosystems and Water Group, Tree People and consultants, City Vida and Urban Semillas.

So now to answer that question about what this means. Simply stated, “If we prioritize groundwater recharge strategies and expedite the remediation of legacy contamination, these basins could provide a resilient and significant percentage of our water supply.”

This statement comes from a small publication called, Not Enough to Waste.  The booklet is primarily used as a tool to gain the support of the City Council on pressing water issues, as well as to educate LA’s citizens on current water policies. The publication offers a simple non-technical discussion about opportunities that are available for water capture and reuse.  If you like that kind of thing here is the City’s version of water policies from the LID Standards.

Using permeable materials and varied best management practices to ensure effective resource management is one way and LID practices diverting rainwater from roofs and paved areas to landscaping, planter boxes, and bio-retention areas, instead of storm drains into the ocean is another. The idea is that in order to build, more water efficacy we need to change water policies and building standards.  All this is done through education.

All this talk of rainwater has me singing, “Here comes the rain again” by The Cure.

This entry was posted on Friday, March 18th, 2011 at 7:37 am and is filed under Architecture, Engineering, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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