Politics

LA mayor questions $15 billion estimate for earthquake resilience

A DWP worker winches a section of earthquake resistant pipe into place below Reseda Blvd. near the Northridge Medical Center.
A DWP worker winches a section of earthquake resistant pipe into place below Reseda Blvd. near the Northridge Medical Center.
Sharon McNary/KPCC

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The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power estimates it would take up to $15 billion to prepare the city's deteriorating water system for a major earthquake, according to a report made public today. But Mayor Eric Garcetti's office questions that figure and did not include it in its citywide earthquake resilience plan.

Last September, the DWP told the mayor's office in an internal report that it would cost $12 to $15 billion dollars to upgrade Los Angeles' pipes and make other important improvements to the city's water supply system.

The mayor's strategy, dubbed the "Resilience By Design" plan, aims at helping Los Angeles' population and economy rebound more quickly after a significant earthquake.

What's missing however are the DWP's numbers – or any specifics on how the mayor's office intends to raise the money to make upgrades to the water system. (In fairness, it appears spending targets were intentionally excluded from the "Resilience By Design" plan, as some of the other sections in the mayor's report, for example, shoring up buildings and the telecommunications network, also lacked cost estimates.)

The DWP estimates the overall potential costs of a broad range of improvements to the city's water system, including installation of earthquake resistant pipe; improving firefighters' post-disaster water supplies; and protecting the Los Angeles Aquaduct, where it crosses the San Andreas Fault north of the city. These projects could take decades to execute.

Garcetti spokesman Jeff Millman, said the mayor did not use the $15 billion figure because it was speculative and because it included some costs of projects already contemplated in the city's budget.  Millman said it was unclear from the DWP's report how the $15 billion would be allocated. The mayor has asked the DWP for more detail on how it calculated its estimate.

You can read the LADWP's September report below: