Massive Water Main Break Raises Fears, Questions Among L.A. City Officials

Renewed fears over Los Angeles’ aging infrastructure began mounting this week in the wake of a devastating water main break which occurred near the UCLA campus in Westwood Tuesday. The latest estimates put the amount of water spilled at 20 million gallons, which is equivalent to the amount of water used by 100 average families per year.

Tuesday’s rupture, which occurred just before 3:30 p.m., originated from a 90-year-old pipeline running under Sunset Boulevard. The massive flood saturated the college campus’ newly-renovated pavilion in an estimated 10 inches of water and left some 900 vehicles stranded. Six workers were also injured during cleanup attempts and damages are estimated to be in the millions.      

City Council Member Mitch Englander cited the rupture as evidence of an underlying “infrastructure crisis” affecting the City of L.A. Council Member Paul Koretz and others, however, were quick to express caution in regards to any proposed solutions. 

Currently, the Department of Water and Power is on track to replace the lines every 300 years. If the lines were to be replaced every 100 years, Koretz said it would cost an estimated $400 billion and require a 4% water rate increase each year. Even then, it would take decades to accomplish.

In a report issued two years ago, the Department of Water and Power estimated that 20% of the city’s pipelines were at least 100 years old; by 2014, it said that figure would rise to 27%. A plan to hike rates by 5% beginning July 2013 was later scrapped. 

In April, Mayor Eric Garcetti vowed against any DWP rate increases for the year, saying the utility must first earn back the public’s trust. Wesson has said it is too early to determine whether any increases are needed in the wake of Tuesday’s rupture. The council is still awaiting a report on the cause of the break.

Read more about the fallout from Tuesday’s water main break here.