DOWNEY - Last summer, when the City of Downey reluctantly implemented its first water rate increase in sixteen years, Council member David Gafin noted significantly that "water is gold in Southern California." To the extent that is true, we received showers of gold throughout the day this past Monday.In fact, Southern California has been blessed much of this past year with moderate temperatures and reasonable rainfall--unlike Texas, which was both figuratively and literally scorched last summer, and parts of the lower Mississippi River which experienced record levels of flooding this past spring. New England too encountered record breaking rainfall throughout most of the year. Southern California has also faired remarkably well compared to global weather conditions, such as ongoing extreme drought in south Africa, and Russia's 2010 drought which caused the country to suspend wheat exports to the rest of the world well into 2011. Likewise in Australia this year, nature added insult to injury when that nation--which has been adjusting for a decade or more to permanent reductions in rain and water supply--experienced severe flooding in Brisbane. Further, reservoir levels in California are significantly above historical levels. Castaic Lake reservoir, for example, is currently at 86% capacity, which is 12% above its historical level. Pyramid Lake reservoir, likewise, is filled to 96% capacity. Driving north on Interstate 5 towards San Francisco, one experiences the comforting feeling of seeing the California Aqueduct meander lazily back and forth alongside the freeway as at brings enormous supplies of water south to a burgeoning Southern California urban population. Most importantly, Downey has the good fortune to be able to supply all the city's water needs from its own groundwater supply, as the Rio Hondo, San Gabriel, and Los Angeles rivers converge here. Yet all is not as simple and perfect as it seems here in Camelot. For, overlooked by most of us, water services and city staff in Downey wage a constant battle to maintain the high water quality standards we tend to take for granted. Many of these standards are imposed by agencies and authorities outside the community, at county, state, and federal levels. And many of these quality issues arise from conditions that come to us from outside the City of Downey. For the next several weeks, we will focus in this space on the water issues that confront the City of Downey, including some of the innovative ways these issues are being addressed, as well as some of the means by which we as responsible businesses, residents, and citizens can help to maintain a viable high-quality water supply, both for ourselves and for our natural surroundings. Lars Clutterham is the co-founder of downeygreen, a local non-profit organization advocating sustainability.
********** Published: December 15, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 35