#SummerScienceFriday | Green Infrastructure Series: Water and Energy Conservation

Last week, we talked about what we can do to be effective watershed stewards. On this week’s #SummerScienceFriday, we add one more way we can be better watershed stewards - with green infrastructure!

What is Green Infrastructure?

Green infrastructure is a cost-effective, resilient approach to managing stormwater that also provides many additional benefits to the surrounding community. In LA, climate change will continue to exacerbate the impacts such as increasing the risk of flooding, high temperatures, and poor air quality. By developing green infrastructure in our urban spaces, we can restore our environment’s ability to infiltrate stormwater, cool ambient temperatures, and enhance public health through added urban greening while also creating habitat for wildlife.

Our Water Supply Uses A LOT of Energy

Los Angeles’ water supply comes from three sources: the State Water Project, the Los Angeles Aqueduct, and the Colorado River Aqueduct. When available, groundwater wells pump water from groundwater basins to the surface. Through the State Water Project (a system of reservoirs, pump stations, power plants, pipes, and canals), water is mainly collected as snowmelt in Northern California (Owens River and Mono Lake Basin) and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. As the snowpack melts, the water turns into streams and rivers that run into lakes and aqueducts and then transported to LA through the Los Angeles Aqueduct. According to UC Davis, 20% of all energy utilized in California goes towards transporting, pumping, heating, and cooling water, further emphasizing the importance of conserving water and energy.

Southern California Is Water-Stressed

Southern California is already a water-stressed region due to its Mediterranean climate, but urbanization and climate change both pose an additional threat to our water supply. LA is characterized by its impermeable surfaces such as concrete and asphalt. When it rains, water is not allowed to slowly spread and sink into the water table and instead flows into waterways as runoff. This decreases groundwater recharge. Now more than ever, is it important to conserve energy and water and one way we can do that is to implement green infrastructure across our watershed to slow, spread, and sink stormwater.

Green Infrastructure in Schoolyards: DROPS

With funding from the California State Water Resources Control Board, the Drought Response Outreach Program for Schools (DROPS) encouraged the design and construction of green infrastructure at four LAUSD schools: Normandie Avenue Elementary School, Northridge Middle School, Victory Boulevard Elementary School, Daniel Webster Middle School. These features included climate-wise landscaping, bioswales, permeable pavers, rainwater harvesting systems, and cool pavements. After these infrastructures were constructed, the campuses experienced less flooding, with the infrastructure capturing over 200,000 cubic feet per year of stormwater on each campus! In addition to water conservation, this project also allowed for increased on-campus green space and increased learning opportunities for staff, students, and the community.

Check out some of the green infrastructure features on these campuses below!

Resources for Educators

  1. CWH (all ages): Green Infrastructure Sponge Activity

  2. Green Education Foundation (Grades K-6): Sun or Shade?

  3. CWH (all ages): How to create your own green infrastructure experiment

Remember to tag us in your photos this summer with #WatershedActive and stay connected with us!

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Many thanks to our #SummerScienceFriday partner for making this #SummerScienceFriday season possible!

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