The refreshing sight and sound of flowing water is usually welcome on a hot summer day. But Jennifer Emery was not happy last week when she saw water spurting and flowing down a narrow canyon and across a road in Elysian Park. Emery was familiar enough with the park, where she takes her dog for walks, to know this was not a natural stream. This new creek on the western side of the park near the Grace Simons Lodge was the result of the most recent water pipe break to plague the park. In this case, water flowed for three days across a park fire road popular with residents of Echo Park and Elysian Heights.
“The pipes burst all the time … as long as I have lived here, going on 14 years,” said Emery, who shot the above video on the Day Two of the pipe break. “Gallons and gallons of water wasted. With the amount of water that is lost and money spent on the cost of the water and fixing and patching the old pipes, you would think it would cost less to re-pipe.”
You would think that but city officials and Elysian Park advocates say it’s not that simple.
Replacing the park’s aging and leak-prone irrigation system has been on the Recreation and Parks Department’s To-Do list for many years now. In fact, the Elysian Park Master Plan ranks the design and installation of a new water distribution and irrigation system among its top priorities to be implemented within one to five years. That master plan and recommendation was made in 2006 and has obviously not been followed.
The issue is money. No cost figures were available but Christine Peters, President of the Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park, said funding would have to come from a future bond issue. “The system needs a permanent and major overhaul, which only a bond or Proposition will make happen nowadays.”
Recreation and Parks spokeswoman Andrea Epstein said department workers try to fix major leaks as soon as they are discovered. But those same repairs cause pressure and problems in other parts of the aging network of pipes. “Repairs are made, then the pipe breaks somewhere else causing a new leakage,” Epstein said.”Our staff works tirelessly on these repairs.
Peters said the broken pipe problem has been exacerbated by a few residents who live near the park and have been able to turn on the park sprinklers. “Their unauthorized over watering often sets off a burst down the line,” said Peters. “It’s a shame, because when the line is capped it also caps the water source to the Marion Harlow Grove and watering hole, which means no water for the grove or the pups and people who count on it for a cooling off point mid hike.”
While Epstein said park workers are quick to fix busted pipes, Peters said department cut backs have allowed leaks to last longer. “What would be fixed in a day in the past, now can take many days. As soon as 1 section is patched another breaks.”
Emery, who shot the video, said it makes no sense to let the water flow when the Department of Water and Power is preaching water conservation. “It’s an environmental nightmare that the city should be held responsible for as we all try to conserve water.”