The rain that has fallen in Los Angeles this year has inspired the Hollywood Beautification Team (HBT) and the City of Los Angeles to join forces on a pilot program that could reduce people’s reliance on city water sources.
The program, which involves retrofitting the city’s trashcans into rain barrels that collect rainwater for later use, is being analyzed by the HBT and the city to determine if it should be expanded citywide. Sharyn Romano, CEO of the HBT, said the response to the program has been so great that the organization is planning how it should move forward. Approximately 600 of the trashcans have been converted into rain barrels, and 300 have already been distributed. Romano stressed that the program is primarily about educating residents about the need to recycle water, and added that anyone who wants one of the remaining rain barrels can contact the HBT for information on the program.
“We are trying to engage the community and educate the community about conservation,” Romano said. “We had planned a series of small, community-based workshops to find people who wanted to participate, but the response has been so positive that we have had to stop and catch our breath. The response has been quite extraordinary.”
Hundreds of people participated in a workshop held on March 25 in Hollywood that was sponsored by Los Angeles City Councilmember Tom LaBonge, 4th District. Romano said the plan is to give the rain barrels to residents and then survey them later this summer on how they were utilized. The barrels are made from the city’s 65-gallon trashcans that are routinely picked up curbside, and have a small opening at the top where the rainwater flows in, and a spigot on the bottom where people can attach a hose for watering. The barrel is the brainchild of Majid Sadeghi, an environmental engineering associate with the Bureau of Sanitation’s Watershed Protection Division, who said he spontaneously came up with the idea two years ago.
“I was thinking about what we can do with recycling the rainwater, and it just popped into my head. We could adapt one of the trashcans to harvest the water,” Sadeghi said. “I remember twenty or thirty years ago when the city first gave out the recycling bins, the idea was that people would start recycling. If we give out free rain barrels, people will start recycling the water.”
The pilot program was funded by the Department of Water and Power, which is currently evaluating whether to expand the program. Romano said the evaluation of the existing rain barrels will take at least a few months, but added that it is very encouraging so many people want to participate in the program. Romano said roughly half of the average resident’s water use is for watering the lawn and garden, and having a supply of rainwater could drastically reduce the reliance on the city’s water reserves. It is estimated that an average Los Angeles home directs approximately 14,000 gallons of rainwater into the storm drains each year, and approximately seven billion gallons of water flow through the system and into the ocean.
“We need to reduce our water consumption,” Romano said. “If we can store rainwater and use that to water our gardens, we are not using our potable water source.”
Romano estimated the cost of the rain barrels at $50 to $60. She added that people who are interested in participating in the program can call the HBT at (323)962-2163.
LaBonge added that conservation is extremely important, and encouraged people to use rain barrels both as a cost saving measure and a way to improve the environment.
“It all adds up. Half the average DWP customer’s water-use is for landscaping. I just looked at my water and power bill and we reduced our use last month, because of all the recent rain. So, it all adds up,” LaBonge said. “It’s so important to reuse everything that we can…and rain-barrels allow us to capture rainwater runoff and reuse it to water our plants.”
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