Posted October 28, 2015 by The Argonaut in Columns
Why Let El Niño Go to Waste?

Re: “Don’t Flush El Niño Down the Drain,” opinion, Oct. 15

Thank you, William Hicks, for your excellent piece. The ominous rainfall prediction chart included with the story, which NOAA released last month, is superseded by an even more sobering one this month. Only a short time ago a NASA climatologist announced that “there is no longer a possibility that [this El Niño] storm will wimp out. It’s 100% for sure, too big to fail.”

That means we are almost certainly looking at one of the wettest rainy seasons ever recorded in Southern California. Are SoCal authorities listening?

People should do whatever they can to sensibly capture rainwater on their own properties. But I want to know where the urgency is to collect water on a larger scale. Where are the WPA-like projects to build emergency reservoirs and catchments ASAP?

We had years to do it, but now only a couple of months. Is our drought not a major emergency? This should be a major public works project of the highest priority.

Yet I haven’t heard of a single thing being done, even as record rainfall becomes more and more imminent each day.

We are surrounded by mountains where rainfall flows through an endless number of crevices and ravines. Why aren’t small dams or other water-capture systems being built? If nothing else, can’t we pump water out of the L.A. River when it floods rather than let it all flow out to sea?

With each storm I am frustrated to see billions of gallons of fresh water flowing through our streets and into storm drains, lost forever, while authorities seem asleep on the issue. Where’s the Depression-era will and determination to build the infrastructure to face this challenge?

Too big a project to tackle? No money? Consider this: Much of Highway 1, almost all the way up the coast of California, was built in just a few years during the cash-strapped 1930s. Not to mention the gigantic Hoover Dam. Remember how swiftly that Santa Monica Freeway overpass was completely rebuilt after it fell in the 1994 quake? It was done in a breathtakingly short time — because it had to be.

Meanwhile, we need to have a serious discussion about growth. We wouldn’t have to skip showers and let our lawns go brown if we hadn’t invited in millions of new residents in recent decades. Sure, developers want to make money and it’s a free country. But how bad does it have to get for the rest of us before authorities wake up and apply some common sense?

Ken Marschall
Redondo Beach


    David Kay

    Those systems are already in place, and have been for decades. The Hansen and Sepulveda basins in the San Fernando Valley, and the Santa Fe Dam in Irwindale all have up- and down-stream spreading areas where coarse boulder fields allow runoff to infiltrate on a grand scale.

      William Hicks

      Some are surely in place, David, but they only collect 10% of the rainfall, as DWP mentions on their website.


    Which obviously aren’t nearly enough, as evidenced by our severe water shortage and draconian cutbacks. Hence the need for more dams.

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