The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power water main breaks that happen weekly have now made national news. CBS Sunday Morning News interviewed DWP’s Marty Adams, head of water operations, about 5200 water pipe leaks in Los Angeles since 2010.
The CBS reporter, Carter Evans, said LA’s pipes are getting some “very poor grades.” Recently a broken water pipe flooded LA’s famous Sunset Blvd with 20 million gallons of water. The geyser on Sunset served as a reminder that LA’s aging water system is in need of upgrades.
Asked by CBS how old the oldest pipe in LA is, Mr. Adams said, “We have pipes over 100 years old in service here. DWP maintains more than 1200 miles of pipe throughout the City. The agency assigns a letter grade to each pipe in the system. Adams said a number of pipes are getting older, “And, now,” he said, “We have a good amount of pipe – about 400 miles of pipe – that is in the D to F range.”
According to an analysis by the LA Times, about 6% of City pipe earned a D or an F, meaning they are most likely to burst and cause major property damage. More than 40% receive a grade of C or lower. Dr. Lucio Soibelman of the USC School of Engineering said around 20% of net worth is more than 100 years old. “Those pipes have an expected life cycle of 100 years old. 20% of the networth is vulnerable.” He called it a problem and said that the City is spending nearly $100 million a year to address it, but that may not buy enough time.
Now, there is a little over a 300-year replacement cycle. Is that acceptable? Adams thinks it’s “more than we want it to be, although the track record of LA is better than most. But it’s not where we feel comfortable being.”
As the United States looks at infrastructure rebuilding, it’s definitely not where people want the system to be, and the loss of water does not match where southern California wants its water to sit after three drought years.