Environment & Science

Once problematic street now an example of environmental conservation

SUN VALLEY -- A Sun Valley residential street with frequent
flooding problems was transformed by nonprofit groups and government agencies
into one that conserves water and cleans up pollution, officials said today.

Elmer Avenue recharges Southern California's underground aquifer with
stormwater for later use as drinking water. Pollutants are removed through
vegetation and soil as the water percolates underground, officials said.

Initiated and managed by the Los Angeles & San Gabriel Rivers Watershed
Council, the Elmer Avenue Neighborhood Retrofit is the culmination of 10 years
of research through the Water Augmentation Study, which shows the potential for
capturing urban runoff before it pollutes rivers and the ocean, according to
project organizers.

"One of the best parts of my job is to bring home funding for projects
like this," said Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Cerritos, who helped secure federal
funding for the project. "Southern California is leading the way to make every
home, community, and region environmentally sustainable."

The design of Elmer Avenue began in 2005 with community meetings, during
which the Watershed Council asked neighbors what they would like their street
to look like.

"We are grateful for this project. It not only came out beautiful, but
when it rains, our streets don't flood anymore," said resident Alicia Gonzales.

City Councilman Tony Cardenas added, "This project is a prime example
of how we can help our communities `go green,' even in this struggling

The street channels water from 40 acres of residential land upstream to
the aquifer through both active and passive methods. In doing so, Elmer Avenue
not only provides 16 acre-feet of groundwater recharge annually -- the amount
of water used annually by 91 people -- but also reduces polluted water flowing
into the Los Angeles River, according to project organizers.

"By turning our yards into rain gardens and our streets into water
recharge facilities, we can ensure clean water for the future,'' said Nancy
Steele, executive director of the Watershed Council. "In contrast to a typical
urban street, Elmer Avenue now reduces flooding and water pollution, improves
water quality, replenishes groundwater supplies and increases native habitat."