Drop that bottle – tap water tastes good now! That’s the message from Razmik Manoukian, LADWP’s Director of Water Quality, at this month’s LADWP neighborhood council meeting, where he gave neighborhood council representatives a quick tour through the changes in LADWP’s water quality over the last twenty years.
The talk was keyed to the release of the annual LADWP Drinking Water Quality Report, which measures how well LADWP drinking water meets applicable standards (answer: quite well, actually). But LA’s water wasn’t always this safe or good-tasting, said Manoukian.
For many years, drinking water was stored in uncovered reservoirs, and chlorine was added as required to meet water quality standards. But that didn’t mean the water always smelled or looked good. Even as recently as 2010, LADWP’s Santa Ynez reservoir experienced an algae bloom. Thanks to chlorination, there was no safety problem, but there were many complaints about smell.
According to Manoukian, starting with the passage of the 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act, many new water regulations were enacted, most recently in 2012. Reservoirs like Santa Ynez were either replaced with large tanks, protected with shade balls, or covered with floating covers… reducing the risk of algae blooms, reducing the need for chlorination by half, and greatly improving water quality.
As a result of these efforts, said Manoukian, customer complaints about water have fallen by 75% over the last 20 years… and most complaints today are about customers’ home or apartment plumbing, not LADWP equipment (aside from problems caused when a water main breaks… or a car knocks off a fire hydrant, which happens with some regularity).
Manoukian said newer treatment methods have also been introduced to handle problems that chlorination couldn’t. In particular, starting in 2014, ultraviolet light has been used to protect against giardia and cryptosporidium, and to reduce the amount of chlorination needed.
The bottom line, according to Manoukian, is that tap water in LA is really good — even better than bottled water, if the bottle has been in the sun too long, or has been open for more than a day.
(Aside: this reporter notes that the 2018 Water Infrastructure Plan explains that many water mains and trunk lines are reaching the end of their useful life and are not yet being replaced as quickly as they need to be. The most recent water rate increase mentioned the need to address this as one reason for the increase. LADWP’s 2017 plan originally set a goal of having its replacement program up to speed by 2020…but by its 2018 plan, that goal had slipped to 2023, so it will be interesting to see what that goal is by next year.)
Manoukian urged that if you do have water quality problems, call either 800-DIAL-DWP or the water quality hotline, 213-367-3182. If they can’t solve your problem over the phone, they’ll come out and try to figure it out in person. And for more information, see http://ladwp.com/waterquality and/or the presentation slides.