Dec 18, 2018

Report Explores Struggles of Los Angeles County Small Systems

The report found Los Angeles County small water systems often face contaminated groundwater

Los Angeles County small systems face drinking water obstacles
Los Angeles County small systems face drinking water obstacles

A new report by researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law found that small water systems in Los Angeles (L.A.) County often struggle to provide customers with clean drinking water at an affordable rate. The researchers found that the county’s small system issues may be due to a combination of groundwater contamination, financial management problems and underfunding.

According to NBC Los Angeles, the report investigated Los Angeles small water systems, which have less than 10,000 customers and collectively serve more than 250,000 customers. While L.A. County has more than 200 water providers, the largest serves more than 4 million customers and the smallest serves just 25 customers.

“To be clear, many small water systems in L.A. County provide safe and affordable drinking water. The problem is that many others do not,” said the report’s authors, Cara Horowitz, Nathaniel Logar and James Salzman. “If we take the human right to water seriously, the place to start is with small water systems.”

The report found that the majority of water providers in the county are small and often lack access to capital for treatment infrastructure or the ability to tap surface water sources, meaning small systems often turn to groundwater. Yet because the small systems serve a small customer base, they often do not have the income necessary to treat contaminated groundwater or outsource surface water, according to the report.

Overall, the report makes several recommendations for improving water quality in the county. The authors suggest that the state should improve data collection on water quality, pricing and customer income levels in small systems. Additionally, they suggest the State Water Board should use water system consolidations to increase funding to these communities for maintenance and infrastructure improvements.