Rain Runoff Captures Benefits from “Perfect Storm”

The intensity of this week's rain is being called a "perfect storm for water conservation."

More than a billion gallons of rainwater have been captured from this week's series of rains being dubbed a "perfect storm" for conservation in Los Angeles County.

"The rain fell at a rate we can handle, with only minimal waste," said Don Wilson, Sr. Civil Engineer with LA County Public Works, which operates a network of facilities to capture rain runoff and divert it for storage as groundwater. "This storm came perfectly," Wilson said.

As of midday Wednesday, Public Works estimate 1.16 billion runoff gallons had been sent to the county's more than two dozen spreading basin facilities, where the captured water is allowed to percolate through the soil to aquifers where it is available to be tapped by wells.

That is enough water to serve the needs of 28,000 persons a year, Public Works estimated.

The county's rainwater capture system dates back more than half a century, with its roots in the massive dams, catch basins, and concrete drainage channels built for flood control.

"We try to take the flood control system and convert it into a water conservation system," Wilson said.

The county's main spreading basins lie alongside the Rio Hondo and San Gabriel River, which drain the Angeles National Forest.

Expanding the system would require large swathes of land, with minimal increased benefit except during the rare large storms that bring more runoff than the current spreading basins can absorb.

In recent years, focus has shifted to capturing runoff with smaller scale projects at the local level, with such steps as rainwater barrels below raingutters, and reverse curb drains to take water from gutters and divert it onto yard landscaping.

In Santa Monica, Bicknell Avenue between Ocean and Nielson has made over as a "green street."

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