Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

LADWP on Tree Care: Part 1 – LADWP Water Sources, Drought, & Conservation Measures

“Why Trees? Why Now?” was the major theme of a Dec. 7 LADWP webinar about Los Angeles’ ongoing drought, the importance of trees to protecting our water supply, and tips for proper tree care during the drought.


On Wednesday, December 7, LADWP representatives provided a very educational webinar on “How to Keep Your Trees and Landscape Thriving During the Drought.”  The program covered the state of LADWP’s water supply and the drought itself, the importance of trees to saving water during the drought, and how to maintain and protect trees to do this important work.

In the introduction to the program, LADWP Commissioner Mia Lehrer and Rachel Malarich, Los Angeles City Forest Officer, provided context for the discussion, with Lehrer noting that even though we’re currently in the rainier winter season, which we don’t usually associate with drought, we do still need to be aware of ongoing climate change and its dangers to our trees – all of which are threatened.  Preserving trees, she said, helps preserve precious water, too…”so I look forward to saving trees and water, one drop, one tree at a time.”

Meanwhile, Malarich, who characterized trees as long-term investments that only get more valuable over time, pointed out that much of our urban forest lies on private property (i.e. in people’s yards), so residents’ participation in protecting and nurturing trees is extremely important.

This is the first of two Buzz stories summarizing the information provided in the LADWP webinar.  This story, based on remarks by LADWP Manager of Water Resources Policy Terence McCarthy, serves as a prelude to the more tree-specific information, and provides background on the Los Angeles water supply, the current state of our ongoing historic drought, and LADWP programs for conserving water.  Part two will provide more specific information on water-wise tree care from Rachel O’Leary, Executive Director of LADWP’s City Trees, and Cristina Basurto, a certified arborist and City Trees’  Community Organizing Manager.


LADWP Water Supplies


According to LADWP Manager of Water Resources Policy Terence McCarthy, LADWP provides power and water (including about 450 million gallons of drinking water) to about 4 million people in the 473-square-mile city of Los Angeles every day.



McCarthy said Los Angeles gets its water from several different sources, including the Delta region of the Sierra Nevada mountains, the LA Aqueducts, the State Water Project, the Colorado River Aqueduct, local groundwater and stormwater, and conservation and recycling…and all of it flows to our Metropolitan Water District – the purple area in the map below.


But McCarthy said several of our key water sources have now have become very stressed by our ongoing drought, which means our Metropolitan Water District, which relies heavily on these sources, may also find its water in short supply.

Currently, said McCarthy, almost the entire state of California is experiencing drought conditions from moderate to exceptional, with conditions the worst in central and southern California, and worse this year than last.



McCarthy said that although everyone is hoping winter precipitation will alleviate the situation to some degree, the long range forecast is currently predicting another “La Niña” year, with abnormally dry weather.  And this will mean even more variability in the conditions of our various water sources, and in the allocations we receive from them…which have already varied a lot over the last three years.




Water Conservation


To help protect our water supplies in times of drought, McCarthy said Los Angeles has had a Water Conservation Ordinance in effect for about 30 years now, which institutes various restrictions based on the state of a drought and our dwindling water supplies.  The ordinance’s basic Phase 1 provisions – which are permanent – prohibit water flowing off private property or leaking from pipes or fixtures, irrigation within 48 hours after measurable rain, unnecessary hosing of driveways, sidewalks or other surfaces, washing cars without a self-closing hose nozzle, and landscape watering between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Phase 2 of the ordinance, which has now been in effect since 2009, further limits outdoor irrigation to three days per week, and a maximum of 8 minutes per station.


During our current drought, McCarthy reported, Phase 3 of the ordinance went into effect on June 1 of this year, limiting outdoor watering to two days per week, recommending pool covers to prevent evaporation from swimming pools, and recommending cars be washed only at commercial car washes.

And stricter requirements, such as those outlined below for Phase 4, he said, may be coming if the drought continues.  These would include requiring pool covers and commercial car washing, prohibiting filling decorative fountains, ponds, and lakes, and limiting landscape watering to just one day a week.  And if the situation worsens even further, Phase 5 restrictions would include complete bans on outdoor watering, and no more filling of swimming pools and spas.


But there is one big exception to these rules:  hand watering, drip lines and soaker hoses…which provide much more targeted watering, and can help protect our valuable trees in particular.



Since these water conservation measures have gone into effect, along with DWP programs to support them,  McCarthy said Los Angeles has cut water use by 30% per person over the last 15 years, has replaced more than 52 million square feet of water-hungry turf, and has installed more than 3.2 million high efficiency toilets, washing machines, shower heads and faucets.



The city has also created recycled water filling stations for both residential and commercial use, and has increased discounts and rebates for a wide variety of other water conservation programs.



For example, McCarthy said, you now need to purchase only 15 irrigation nozzles to receive rebates on those items, and cost savings have been boosted on things like high-efficiency toilets and clothes washers, and rain barrels and cisterns. And FLUME home monitoring devices, which tell you just how much water you’re using in real time and can help pinpoint leaks, are now discounted from $199 to only $24 after rebates.



In addition, LADWP offers free Turf Replacement Design Services to help redesign the yards of residents who remove their grass…



…along with hands-on workshops on removing that turf and replacing it with more sustainable landscaping.



For more information on LADWP’s water conservation programs, see  You can also find out more about the city’s Urban Water Management Plan at

And for more specific information on the importance of trees, and maintaining our precious trees – even during our historic drought – stay tuned for Part 2 our coverage of LADWP’s “How to Keep Your Trees and Landscape Thriving During the Drought” webinar.


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Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - with deep roots in both the Sycamore Square and West Adams Heights-Sugar Hill neighborhoods. She spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and has been writing for the Buzz since 2015.

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