Los Angeles residents now have another reason to visit the zoo this summer. Starting today, they can pick up free recycled water there every Tuesday. Officials announced last week that residents and business owners can receive up to 300 gallons of disinfected water for non-drinking uses — such as watering plants — every day that the fill station is open. All residents who present a Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) bill and undergo a training session about approved uses are eligible to receive the water.
Marty Adams, LADWP’s senior assistant general manager for the water system, said in a statement, “LADWP and our city partners are excited to make recycled water more accessible and more familiar to all our customers. Opening this recycled water fill station not only promotes local water supplies and drives down our reliance on imported water, but it also helps our customers save on their water bill.”
Training in recycled water use is provided onsite in the zoo parking lot. The L.A. Zoo was chosen as the first fill station location because of its proximity to existing purple pipe. The zoo receives its recycled water from the L.A.-Glendale Water Reclamation Plant, just across the highway. The recycled water is thrice-treated wastewater, disinfected with chlorine. Another fill station will soon open at the plant itself, where residents will be able to fill up on weekends.
“Due to existing efforts, L.A. is using just as much water today as we did 45 years ago, despite having a million more people,” said Councilmember David Ryu in a statement. “Everyone is doing their part to conserve water and our efforts are admirable, but we need to come together to do even more.” Nearly 90 percent of Los Angeles’ water is imported, mostly from hundreds of miles away. Making use of recycled water is just one aspect of the city’s efforts to develop a local water supply, including through stormwater capture.
Last month California suspended the mandatory statewide 25 percent reduction in urban water use that was implemented in 2015. After a relatively wet winter — in which El Niño partially replenished reservoirs, though not as much as predicted — local communities are now expected to set their own conservation standards instead.
The L.A. Zoo fill station is open every Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Residents are required to bring their own containers and to place an LADWP-provided “Do not drink” sticker on all containers used to transport the water.
Jen Kinney is a freelance writer and documentary photographer. Her work has also appeared in Philadelphia Magazine, High Country News online, and the Anchorage Press. She is currently a student of radio production at the Salt Institute of Documentary Studies. See her work at jakinney.com.