Fill’er Up: LADWP planning to tap into groundwater to refill Silver Lake Reservoir

Emptied Silver Lake Reservoir | Courtesy LADWP

Emptied Silver Lake Reservoir | Courtesy LADWP


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.

Town hall meeting with the DWP | Barry Lank

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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  1. Let’s hope the DWP keeps their promise to start the refill by May 2017. The groundwater idea sounds good: using non-drinking water and water that would otherwise be wasted.

  2. A good meeting. Though I was surprised and disappointed to see a long-time board member of the Silver Lake Reservoir Conservancy advocating vigorously for using potable water.

  3. Becky with the good hair

    Water high in nitrates? Thats going to make for a lot of scum. Hope they have a budget for treatment.

    • Becky with the weave

      Why, so you can wash your precious hair in it?

      • Becky with the good hair

        Huh? No silly. Water high in nitrates encourages algae and other green things to grow in water. As a mater of fact, it’s what makes grass so green! YAY! It’s education day in the the comment section of the eastsider, Yay.

  4. Re using potable water in there, the plan had been that Silver Lake would be a backup supply of drinking water in time of emergency, such as a major earthquake knocking out service from the primary supplies. This move to fill it with non-potable water leaves us that much more at risk in such an emergency, lacking this backup supply.

    We will have the lake filled, which is good; but it is being done at the expense of the safety a backup supply of potable water would offer. That is the issue being weighed when deciding which water to use in there. The gamble is that we will never have such as loss of our regular supplies in an emergency; if we do, at that time everyone will be complaining that we never should have given up this backup supply.

    • Would this plan be allowed under current EPA regulations? And would Silver Lake be the only backup supply under this plan? Where can we get more info on this plan?

    • Maybe you wrote it by accident, but it’s not a lake. The lake in Silver Lake is a reservoir. It’s a reservoir that is no longer in use, so let’s dispense with all the nonsensical arguments of why it should be filled with water and if so what type. It’s a reservoir that’s no longer in use and for well known reasons cannot, and should not, be filled with water.

      This whole thing isn’t Nimbyism, it’s the worst kind of limousine liberalism. The monied residents of Silver Lake want to keep their reservoir view and want everyone to pay for it (oh, and stay out of their neighborhood because that’s what a park would bring). If the residents of Silver Lake want to turn a reservoir into a lake then let them pay for it. The city needs money, we’ll sell it to you.

      • Your casual dismissal of a geographic feature that has been so prominent a fixture in a neighborhood for such a long time that the entire neighborhood derives it’s name from the feature is appalling. There is no well known reason why it shouldn’t be filled with water. There is a well known reason why it shouldn’t be used as a reservoir for public drinking water. That’s a significant difference. Getting rid of Silverlake would be catastrophic to the identity of the neighborhood and should be a decision made by the neighborhood.

        • I’ll I hear is “I want things to stay the same because they work for me.” My response is: me and I’m guessing most DWP customers don’t want to subsidize your neighborhood. Stop trying to sell this as something other than those with money using the political power it provides to get more than they deserve.

        • And what’s the well-known source from where all this water will be taken to fill up the whole thing as it was before? What’s wrong with perhaps turning part of it into a wetlands using reclaimed/recycled water and turning part of it into a park? The entire city pays for the maintenance and operation of the Reservoir property, so any policy decision will have to be made with that in mind, with input from the neighborhood. But the neighborhood doesn’t get to decide on its own. Maybe that would be possible if Silver Lake residents are willing to have an additional tax added to their property tax bills to cover all future costs? At least this way, we can convince the rest of the city we don’t feel so entitled.

          By the way, cities, neighborhoods, and neighborhood identities change, despite NIMBY efforts to stop change and the passage of time.

        • A few reasons it shouldn’t be refilled:
          -It requires water, which is scarce in Southern California.
          -Pumping water requires energy, which has a significant environmental impactx
          -Water that flows to the sea isn’t “lost”, it creates riparian habitat
          -A city sized reflecting pond is not a higher and better use than public open space in a city that has among the worst availability of parkland for low and middle income residents.

          • it is a major stop for waterfowl on a migration corridor.

          • Converting the reservoir to a park would require enourmous amounts of construction which would dwarf any environmental impact that simply pumping nonpotable groundwater. The trucks alone needed to move the quantity of earth needed to fill the reservoir would be insane. It already has watertable issues so it would need filling.

          • The excuses from people like skr just get more pathetic and transparent. It’s a major stop for waterfowl? What did they do when it was covered with those balls? Oh my God, what are they doing now? Someone please fill it quickly because of the birds!

            Making it a park will require construction? All of this is the definition of poor urban planning. You know, the stuff people in Los Angeles rightfully complain about everyday. Refilling a non-usable reservoir with any water and maintaining it becomes a fixed cost for all while adding no value. Once it’s refilled the residents will then do battle about keeping it closed, pristine, untouched and exclusive, and we’ll all pay for it.

            Maybe the birds can use a pond in the new park that replaces a defunct reservoir.

          • Silverlake Reservoir was never covered with balls. Ivanhoe Reservoir was covered with balls. A park has higher maintenance costs than a lake. You obviously have no idea how this geographical feature fits into the local landscape or any concept as to what it would take to realize your plan for the area.

          • I did some quick math. It would take 3,871,994 cubic yards of fill to fill the reservoir. A bottom dump trailer has a capacity of 24 cuyd. so it would take 161,333 loads to fill the reservoir. If you had a truck unloading every 15 minutes over an 8 hour day it would take 5,041 days. If you worked on every single day of the year it would take 13.8 years to fill the reservoir. How much diesel do you think that would burn through?

          • Why does park mean refilling the entire reservoir with soil? It’s an enormous piece of property in which the floor can be raised without using soil and a park built on it. The entire floor doesn’t even need to be raised or filled. It can include a person-made lake that actually gets used as part of a park. This is just thinking out loud with mathematic calculations.

            I think objections to this suggestion, or any that repurposes a defunct reservoir, gets to the heart of the issue. Silver Lake residents want a view of a pristine reservoir or water that no one can use. And again, me and lots of other DWP customers say you can pay for it.

          • It needs to be filled in so that it doesn’t turn into a vernal cesspool everytime it rains. There is already a high water table as evidenced by the recent flooding of the empty reservoir. It is the collection point for the watershed. Here is already a masterplan for the area done by Mia Lehrer that allows for access and keeps the reservoir.

    • Umm…

      Not quite ….the Reservoir, is now “offline”, any water that enters it moving forward will become non-potable the moment it enters the basin. There will no longer be treatment, testing, water quality requirements. The challenge to keep it circulated and not stagnant will of course be a priority, but it will never again be potable…


  5. LA DWP’s Marty Adams pointed out that the emergency supply for the City will be the San Fernando Aquifer. Potable water for the Silver Lake Reservoir will not happen. It would be against both City and State conservation directives, not to mention an expensive and wasteful act in the midst of historic drought and climate change. And contrary to beliefs of some, those ethical principles and laws actually do apply even in the most entitled enclaves.

  6. Sounds like this water will be pumped from polluted wells … in the SFV? Neat.

  7. Thanks to DWP and Refill Silver Lake for finally getting this sorted! Maintaining what’s beautiful about a city is nothing to sniff at.

  8. I live in SL five doors down from the reservoir. There is no reason on earth it needs to be filled up to historic levels and no reason it has to be as big as it is. The Ivanhoe reservoir should disappear and become a park. And the big rez should become a slightly smaller lake. You can have more park, more wetlands, more usable space AND a massive lake if you just reduce the lake footprint by just 100 feet on each side.

    It’s crazy to use that much water, no matter the type, to fill it up to the same size/level as before.

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