Environment & Science

Silver Lake Reservoir to be refilled early after wet winter

File: This April 9, 2010 photo shows the Department of Water's Silver Lake Reservoir in Los Angeles.
File: This April 9, 2010 photo shows the Department of Water's Silver Lake Reservoir in Los Angeles.
Damian Dovarganes/AP

Like Echo Park Lake before it, Silver Lake Reservoir in its hilly Eastside neighborhood in Los Angeles has sat empty for more than a year, drained to the dirt like an earthen bathtub.

Joggers and pet walkers have continued pacing along its concrete shores anyway, paying little heed to the pond’s undignified bottom, once sparkling but now bare. Residents, meanwhile, have been rattled by the ongoing construction, debating what should happen next — restore it as the enclosed local treasure it was or drop the fencing in favor of open park space.

Nature moved faster than politics. On Wednesday, the L.A. Department of Water and Power, which owns and maintains the facility, announced that it will refill the reservoir ahead of schedule with surplus water from this winter’s abundant snowfall.

In a written statement, the LADWP said it will begin refilling the reservoir in mid-April rather than in May — and that the process will take just two months instead of a year.

Before a dramatically wet winter helped pull most of California out of its deep and prolonged drought, the future of Silver Lake Reservoir was uncertain. The city had to scrap plans to use potable water, instead opting for a longer process using recycled wastewater and groundwater.

“Instead of getting the groundwater infrastructure in place to fill the reservoir beginning in May, we are going to be able to to pipe in the overabundance — some of it — a small fraction of the overabundance of the snowmelt right into Ivanhoe and overflowing into the reservoir,” said L.A. City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, whose 13th District includes the reservoir.

The water level will be kept between 440 and 450 feet above sea level, drawing from a nearby well via 3,100 feet of pipeline being installed by the utility.

Any other changes to the property will be sorted out by the community at a later date, according to the LADWP’s project FAQ.

The reservoir was drained in late 2015 to comply with updated state and federal drinking water quality regulations. Under the new rules, potable water in open reservoirs must be covered, bypassed or treated, according to the LADWP.

The city has since diverted the potable water in both the Silver Lake and Ivanhoe reservoirs to the Headworks Reservoir just north of Griffith Park.

Despite the abundance of water, O’Farrell warned residents not to take this natural windfall for granted. In a statement, O’Farrell said “we need to be mindful that water is a precious resource, that this overflow is a gift, and we need to continue to be vigilant in our conservation efforts for water use.”

If you want to find out more about the process or want to add your two cents, you can attend a community meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday night in Ivanhoe Elementary School’s auditorium.