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Groundwater Project Begins in Panorama City Today

This month, Panorama City residents near Woodman Avenue will be seeing major changes to the road from Lanark Street to Saticoy Avenue -- the city has started construction on the Woodman Multi-Beneficial Stormwater Capture and Median Retrofit Project.

An outgrowth of the 2008 Tujunga/Pacoima Watershed plan, the $3.4 million project retrofits the 3,500-foot-long asphalt medians on Woodman Avenue, turning concrete medians lined with disease-ridden magnolias into a stretch of native vegetation that will help recharge the groundwater basin, improve water quality, alleviate local flooding, and create a more pedestrian-friendly neighborhood.

"It's a great community benefit. Instead of asphalt, concrete and some dying magnolias, now you have a lot of native vegetation, trees and a much prettier environment," says River Project Executive Director Melanie Winter, "Even more important is that it is increasing our local water supply."

The groundwater project is estimated to capture, clean and infiltrate 1.5 million gallons of rainwater every average storm, and augmenting local water supplies rather than seeing it all flushed out to the ocean via Tujunga Wash and the Los Angeles River. If construction proceeds as scheduled, the new median should be finished by December 2012, with landscaping done by January 2013. Alongside these improvements, residents can expect to see interpretative elements added onto the median created by the students of nearby Ranchito Elementary School. The project was funded by State Proposition 50 funds (set aside for water quality, supply and safe drinking projects), Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, and the Bureau of Sanitation.


Making it Easy to Manage Water

The groundwater project is just the beginning, says Winter. Already, the River Project is beginning work on a three-year Los Angeles Rainwater Harvesting Project around the Panorama City neighborhood with help from a grant from the California Coastal Conservancy. The project is meant to de-mystify the bureaucratic and construction tangles involved with re-working one's water systems, while also measuring the effect of better water management on a household level.

"Right now, if you want to build a rain water garden or build gray water systems, there's a lot of things you're required to do. Permits, going to the planning dept, paying fees. Unless you're really hardcore you're probably not going to do it. There's also conflicting information on city ordinances on the books," says Winter.

The River Project plans to work with homeowners surrounding the Woodman Avenue area to implement various site-specific solutions to help them manage water differently, instead of simply draining all the water off their property. Using the monitoring systems embedded into the new median, the project will be able to measure the amount of additional stormwater captured and water quality improvements as a result of the home projects. Paired with the home's water bills (which will hopefully show significant savings), the River Project will have enough data to build a case for more of such projects in all parts of Los Angeles. The results are meant to inspire other homeowners to undertake their own household water management projects, while also giving the city's water agencies incentive to pursue similar projects.

Winter adds, "We're trying to find a way to make it easy for everyone to do this. Easy, not just legal. We want to make this something people do because they get value out of it and because they understand their connection to the river."

Woodman Avenue Green Infrastructure Project under construction

[UPDATED 6/25 4:15pm: Headline mistakenly identified the Panorama City neighborhood as Pacoima. It has been corrected.]

About the Author

Carren is an art, architecture and design writer and an avid explorer of Los Angeles. Her work has been spotted on Core77, Dwell, Surface Asia, and Fast Co.Design. You can find her online and on Twitter. 
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