L.A. Water Storage Underground

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power brings water storage systems underground

By Julia Edinger

In 2008, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power started the design of the Headworks Reservoir, the largest underground reservoir in the Western U.S.

The need for this project emerged as a result of increasing water quality regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency, which addressed eliminating the use of open finished water reservoirs. The two existing reservoirs in the area were open reservoirs, so the LADWP team initiated work on the massive undertaking of the new reservoir.

The reservoir is a large and complex project, as the total storage capacity of it will be 110 million gallons. A project like this must be broken into stages to be accomplished efficiently.

The Headworks Reservoir project increases the total water storage capacity to 110 million gallons.

“We have Headworks Reservoir East, which is completed and partially buried,” explained Susan Rowghani, Director of Water Engineering and Technical Services for LADWP. “We’re under construction with the Headworks Reservoir West. So that’s phases one and two. The third phase will be the construction of a flow control station… The fourth phase deals with the restoration of the site, which we anticipate having native plantings on top of the reservoir with passive recreation for people to walk on, because this particular site is right next to the LA River.”

While the fourth phase is still in the conceptual phase, the team anticipates phases one through three will all be complete in 2021.


Los Angeles: A Need for Water

In a place like Southern California, water security is a common concern for the community. A reservoir of this scale is likely to have a huge community impact. This is one of the reasons that LADWP is carefully planning the fourth phase, which will have the most interaction from Los Angeles residents.

The environment was taken into account with efforts of increasing the project’s sustainability. One example is the mutually beneficial use of dirt from a nearby business.This helped the business to save on dumping costs that they would have incurred, while helping LADWP as well.

“Not only was that an example of something mutually beneficial, neighbor-helping-neighbor, it’s also an example of how we reduced our carbon footprint as well as cost by procuring dirt elsewhere,” stated Ellen Cheng, Spokesperson for LADWP.

With open reservoirs, as opposed to these buried tanks, water can be lost through evaporation. A closed water storage system provides environmental benefits as it helps to use water more efficiently.

The team anticipates that the first three phases of the project will be complete in 2021; the fourth phase involves the landscaping to make the site functional.

For a project that takes up such a large site of land, the benefits to the community will be huge. The capability of the region’s water systems is increased by this development, also. Each reservoir takes a large amount of time, soil, and labor to construct, bury, and landscape. But the LADWP team is committed to ensuring that this space is still used. Ultimately, its proximity to Griffith Park and the Los Angeles River is expected to increase foot traffic and outdoor recreation.

The team went to great lengths involving themselves in conversations with various stakeholders and political entities prior to construction to reduce negative community impacts. With nearby cemeteries, parks, and even an equestrian facility, it was important to mitigate noise pollution during the evenings and to minimize traffic interruptions. Through the open dialogue, this was able to happen.


Moving Forward

While the new reservoirs are approaching completion, the Silverlake and Ivanhoe Reservoirs still serve a purpose to the community, allowing recreational use and enjoyment, according to Cheng.

From the location chosen for the project, to the in-house design, to the landscaping and final construction that remains, careful thought went into each element of this project. The new reservoirs are sure to provide greater water security to a region that urgently needs it.

The closed reservoirs help to conserve water as it prevents loss due to evaporation, which was occurring with the previous reservoir system.

LADWP is not slowing down on improving the water infrastructure of Southern California. Between several water quality projects and reviving aging pipe and pipeline systems, LADWP has many exciting projects in the works from the San Fernando Valley to the Owens Valley.

This project not only modernizes the water infrastructure systems of the community, but it also gives back to the community. The project’s final phase will provide a recreational green space that the community can enjoy while the infrastructure works diligently to store water underneath.

Julia Edinger is the Acting Editor for American Infrastructure Magazine. She can be reached at julia@penpubinc.com.

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