By BARRY LANK
SILVER LAKE — The most optimal source for refilling the Silver Lake Reservoir is groundwater, but it would take about a year for the water to reach historic levels.
That was the upshot of a town hall meeting Tuesday night with representatives from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. The update was well received by many who had been pressing the utility to return water to the reservoir.
“I’m relieved,” said Jill Cordes, co-founder of Refill Silver Lake Now. “I think they heard us loud and clear. It’ll take longer than we hoped. But groundwater is the solution we need.”
Officials with the L.A. Department of Water and Power also discussed the pros and cons of refilling the reservoir with recycled and storm water. But Marty Adams, the senior assistant general manager of the LADWP water system, said only groundwater could provide enough water to fill the reservoir and be ready for release by May 1 of next year. Groundwater would also be relatively easy to maintain for quality.
The groundwater would come from existing wells and flow into the reservoir through 2,300 feet of new pipe. That water, which has some elevated nitrate levels and cannot be used for drinking, would otherwise flow into the ocean and be lost. So using it for the reservoir would not deplete the region’s water table, Adams said.
If groundwater is used, the DWP estimates the refill to the historic level of 440 feet above sea level would be complete by around May 2018.
“Tonight is a good news meeting,” Adams said.
Representatives for advocacy groups who attended the presentation at the John Marshall High School Auditorium sounded optimistic about the proposed solution.
Craig Collins, a board member of Silver Lake Forward, complemented the DWP for the groundwater idea, saying, “They found a bold solution hiding in plain sight. I think they put a lot of people at ease.”
The reservoir was drained last year to construct a pipeline along the reservoir bed as part of a much larger water-quality improvement project. Initially, it was to be refilled with potable water as before. But Adams said refilling with potable water was not an option now because of the drought.
Nor would refilling with potable water make things go a whole lot faster, Adams noted, since potable sources for previous refills have been taken off-line.
He added, in response to audience questions, that despite the changes of water sources, the bypass project was not falling behind.
“We are very much on track with what’s needs to happen to the reservoir,” Adams said. “There is no delay.”
City Councilmember David Ryu of District 4 said he and Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell of District 13, who also attended the town hall, would hold the DWP accountable for meeting the timeline.
This was the second town hall meeting about the refill — a follow-up to the first meeting in June. The third meeting takes place in November and will focus on the more contentious question of what to do with the reservoir once it’s refilled — a question that may involve people beyond Silver Lake.
“Recognize that every rate payer is paying for this project,” Adams said.
Cordes said people within her group already disagree on what to do with the reservoir once it’s refilled. But for now, their job is simply to make sure the refill stays on track.
“We now need to be the watchdog,” she said.
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Barry Lank grew up in the San Gabriel Valley, then went away for a seriously long time. He has worked in TV and radio, and currently helps produce The Final Edition Radio Hour.
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