Our Next Mayor Must Grapple with Water and Power

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February 25, 2013 in Environment

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(Editor’s Note: Today we continue our series of posts from invited writers who offer thoughts on what the coming four years hold for Los Angeles and its next mayor. These opinions do not reflect the views of Frying Pan News or the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy.)

The next mayor of Los Angeles will have significant environmental matters before them. Let’s take two — water and power.

On energy, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is obligated by California law to deliver one third of the city’s electricity with renewable power by the year 2020. The state also mandates that L.A. curtail using sea water to cool its coastal power plants by 2029. State law also sets deadlines for L.A. to get off of coal. And the state also demands that L.A. reduce its energy use by at least 10 percent via new energy efficiency and conservation measures by 2020.

Any one of these energy initiatives alone is a major deal. However, the next mayor will need to accomplish all of these mandates simultaneously. Therefore, he or she will need to be a great manager, overseeing LADWP, and getting to a greener future as inexpensively as possible. (We don’t want ratepayer backlash over high costs.)

On water, Los Angeles has big plans — going from 10 percent of water supplied today from local sources to 37 percent by 2035. Although local water is less expensive than imported, the upfront capital costs for this major transition will be enormous. In addition, climate change and other factors will impact how water gets imported into the city. The city will need to find aquifers to store and maintain water in wet years, and draw on those supplies in dry years.

The next mayor will need to go to the public to sell the need for these initiatives — even though most of them are state mandates. And it will take rate increases to fund these mega-projects. That’s why the mayor needs to be seen as a trusted fiscal steward.

(Jonathan Parfrey is executive director of Climate Resolve, president of the Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters and a commissioner at the L.A. Department of Water and Power.)

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