UCLA to Inform Adaptive Management of Stormwater Capture Program in L.A. County

Luskin Center for Innovation researchers join interdisciplinary monitoring team to enhance the region’s water supply and build community resilience

Landscaping on UCLA’s campus captures stormwater runoff, helping to avoid water pollution.

October 13, 2021

In a drought-prone area like Los Angeles, rare stormwater events provide tremendous potential to boost local water supply.

That’s why in 2018, L.A. County voters approved Measure W, a tax on paved properties that raises about $280 million annually to strengthen the region’s water self-sufficiency and ecosystems.

Measure W and the program it created, the Safe Clean Water Program, are designed to capture, clean, and reuse water runoff — and ultimately strengthen the local ecosystem and build community resilience. The program funds a variety of projects, like converting an inert landfill into a wetland in Sun Valley and developing green landscaping along Metro lines that capture stormwater and provide shade and greenery for cyclists and pedestrians. The goal of the program is to fund projects which are multi-benefit, with top priorities being improvements in water quality, enhancements in supply, investment in community priorities and enhancing climate and ecosystem resiliency.

To help the program realize its full potential, the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation is embarking on a 2-year study, funded by the L.A. County Flood Control District. Results from the study will help the county and Safe Clean Water Program stakeholders assess both the priority of investment proposals and the impacts of the program over time.

The County study team is an interdisciplinary group of organizations led by DRP Engineering, and includes the Nature Conservancy, Stantec, and Craft Water.

“This is a landmark opportunity for the county to enhance its stormwater management capacity, and to lead the state in doing so equitably,” said Greg Pierce, co-director of the Luskin Center for Innovation and UCLA project lead of the study. “We are excited to work with a truly interdisciplinary team within and beyond UCLA to help make sure the program realizes its potential, and delivers the range of benefits expected by its diverse stakeholders.”

The Luskin Center for Innovation team also includes faculty affiliates from across UCLA’s campus, including Jon Christensen in the Institute of Environment and Sustainability and Sanjay Mohanty in the department of civil and environmental engineering.

Ensuring a high percentage of benefits from the program reach under-resourced communities is a critical part of the evaluation. The Luskin Center for Innovation is leading the equity focus of the study, measuring how the program allocates funding to disadvantaged communities and how residents prioritize project types. The research will also explore potential workforce benefits and how funds from other County measures can be leveraged.

This project builds upon the Luskin Center for Innovation’s research on local water resiliency and urban greening, as well as L.A.’s voter-approved infrastructure measures.