During its sixth annual groundwater festival, entitled “Treasure Beneath Our Feet,” last Saturday, the Water Replenishment District (WRD) presented Congressmember Alan Lowenthal (Democrat, CA-47th District) with an award for his support of the agency’s efforts to maintain an adequate supply of clean underground water for the region it serves.
“WRD is proud to host this successful community event that raises the public’s awareness of our most fundamental public resource– our groundwater,” said WRD Board President Albert Robles. “As the costs of imported water from the Colorado River and northern California continue to rise, our reliance upon local groundwater supply becomes even more important in keeping water affordable, and this event helps to highlight the need to protect our precious public resource.”
The event took place at WRD headquarters in Lakewood and came on the last day of National Groundwater Awareness Week, which recognizes the importance of groundwater as an indispensable and renewable resource across the nation. Locally, according to a WRD press release, groundwater is vital to south Los Angeles County because it accounts for almost half of the water used by the region’s four million residents, which represent 10 percent of the state’s population. WRD manages the groundwater in a region that encompasses 43 cities in south Los Angles County.
The festival featured more than 40 tables, booths, and interactive displays set up by a variety of nonprofit, state and local government agencies– all aimed at educating children and adults on water conservation, environmental issues, or eco-gardening. Organizations participating in the festival included the Aquarium of the Pacific, the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, the Southeast Community Development Center, the San Gabriel and Lower Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy, the Mono Lake Outdoor Experience Program, the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District, and others.
ABC7 Eyewitness News reporter Rudabeh Shahbazi served as the master of ceremonies for the award presentation. This year the WRD board of directors presented the Groundwater Ambassador Award to Lowenthal for his efforts to protect and increase the regional groundwater supply.
“I am so proud and happy that we can honor him today for the wonderful job that he’s been doing,” said WRD Boardmember Lillian Kawasaki. “He really worked so hard to fight for us.”
Kawasaki was referring to the fact that, during his tenure as state senator, Lowenthal authored and helped pass SB 1386, which was signed into law last year. “We had 200,000 acre-feet of water storage capacity below us that was not being used because of an ongoing court battle between WRD and the Central Basin Municipal Water District,” Lowenthal explained. “But there should be just one institution that protects and stores the groundwater in a specific region.”
Lowenthal explained that SB 1386 basically vested all groundwater storage authority in WRD, thus settling the fight between the two agencies once and for all, and removing it from the courts. “Central Basin also provides vital services to the people of this region, but WRD should be solely responsible for underground water storage,” he added. “I was glad to be just one part of the evolution of water protection here in southern California.”
Robles said that SB 1386 has saved WRD a lot of time and money. “The law has clarified that WRD is the groundwater monitor for this area,” he said. “We appreciate that very much.”
Elected and appointed officials from all over the region attended the festival. One of them, Carson Mayor Jim Dear said he was delighted to attend WRD’s sixth annual community festival. “This event educated the public on the importance of groundwater, on how to be ecologically responsible, and on how to keep the planet environmentally healthy,” he said.
Christina Kysella-Dixon, staff analyst for the Huntington Park Public Works Department, agreed. “It’s a wonderful event for adults and for kids, and I look forward to coming to it every year,” she said. “I am also glad that WRD has set up its own displays that show the public how important it is to have an agency that monitors the quality and ensures the supply of our groundwater.”
At one of the WRD displays, civil engineer Paul Fu outlined one of the procedures undertaken by the agency. “Our advanced water treatment turns wastewater into highly purified recycled water that we can inject into our seawater intrusion barrier wells,” he said. “The wells prevent seawater from moving inland and entering into our freshwater supply.”
Fu explained that the wastewater goes through micro filtration, reverse osmosis, and ultraviolet light disinfection before it is injected into the barrier wells. “Scientific evidence shows that the quality of that water exceeds the standards set for drinking water,” he added.
Los Alamitos resident Gina Rosenthal visited Fu’s display as well as other educational booths at the event. “This festival is wonderful,” she said. “It gives people the assurance that our water supply is safe.”