O’Farrell Proposes Solar Panels on 400+ Mile L.A. Aqueduct, Expansion of Water Conservation and Reuse Efforts

The Motions introduced today could help Los Angeles save precious water while significantly expanding solar power footprint

LOS ANGELES — Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, the chair of the Los Angeles City Council’s Energy, Climate Change, Environmental Justice, and River (Environmental Justice) committee, today introduced major initiatives that aim to transform the City’s approach to water conservation and reuse, as well as a nation-leading innovation along the Los Angeles Aqueduct, with a proposal to cover the century-old water system with solar panels.

“Los Angeles is already doing so much to fight the climate crisis and advance our environmental justice goals, but as we act urgently, we must also think creatively,” said Councilmember O’Farrell. “The aqueduct is the reason that modern-day Los Angeles exists, but we’re not using it smartly enough. Let’s change that, starting with today’s action. We also must significantly expand our efforts to conserve, recycle and reuse our water supply, which is why we need a new gray water ordinance. It is also an imperative that we water all our street trees with recycled water. Smart, creative innovations like these are needed for Los Angeles to effectively and urgently fight the climate crisis.”

O’Farrell’s first motion introduced today proposes that solar panels be installed atop the Los Angeles Aqueduct, the first section of which opened in 1913, and which from 2016-2019 provided 38% of the City’s drinking water. The aqueduct delivers water to Los Angeles and has a combined approximate length of over 370 miles, a span that is virtually entirely exposed to evaporation from the sun, which causes it to lose approximately 10-11% of water each year. Covering the aqueduct with solar panels would help reduce evaporation, and will eventually add considerable renewable, carbon-free electrical capacity for over 1.54 million customers in the City of Los Angeles, as well as over 6,000 customers in Owens Valley.  The current LADWP power resources profile includes natural gas and other fossil fuels, which will be phased out by 2035 due to the LA100, the nation-leading plan to create clean, renewable, fossil fuel-free energy.

O’Farrell’s second motion proposes that the City significantly expand its water conservation, recycling and reuse efforts, including: implementation of a gray water ordinance requiring systems for new developments above 100,000 square feet, depending on water use.  Gray water refers to all wastewater generated in households or office buildings from streams without fecal contamination. Though non-potable, it has tremendous value as a recycled water source, and could help Los Angeles significantly conserve its potable water resources.  The motion also directs the Bureau of Sanitation to expand current programs focused on eliminating all pollutants from flowing into the ocean, a major step in addressing contamination from total mass daily loads (TMDLs).  Finally the motion also directs a coordinated approach requiring all watering of street trees to be done with recycled water.

“We applaud Councilmember O’Farrell for his leadership and focus on the environment, which will also lead to good-paying, Union jobs,” said Chris Hannan, Executive Secretary, Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council.

Under O’Farrell’s leadership, the Environmental Justice committee has advanced a series of bold measures that have established Los Angeles as the nation’s leading municipality in the environment justice movement, including: the LA100 initiative to achieve 100% carbon-free, renewable energy by 2035; enacting a just transition to 9,500 new clean energy jobs; an initiative to decarbonize all City buildings and facilities; a citywide electric vehicle master plan, and more.