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Drinking Water Pollution in Los Angeles

Drinking Water Pollution in Los Angeles


Water is a fundamental need of all living beings as it supports all forms of life; hence, its availability is crucial for survival. Both the earth surface and the human body contain more than 75% of water. Therefore, water is an essential part of human life. The earth is made of 3 percent fresh water, which makes it a very limited resource (Tikkanen 21). Los Angeles has a semi-arid climate; therefore, it depends heavily on ground water as a main source of drinking water. Los Angeles is one of the largest cities in the United States and it is a home to millions of people from different racial backgrounds. This city is one of the most polluted cities in the United States when it comes to ozone pollution and particle pollution. Drinking water pollution form industrial wastes and human activities poses a serious problem in Los Angeles. This paper discusses the current water pollution problem in Los Angeles. It also highlights the causes and the different methods of mitigating the problem.


Currently, Los Angeles faces serious contamination issues of its main drinking water sources that have stemmed from historical contamination of the ground water. Billions of dollars have been pumped into the clean-up program of the four main water basins since 1980 (Harris-Lovett 7553). However, the results have not been achieved successfully because of the new contaminations and heavy industrial pollution in the area. Some of the experts state that if further efforts are not put in place to conserve the San Fernando Basin, the impact will be irreversible and the basin will have to be closed (Harris-Lovett 7558).

Being a semi-arid climatic region, Los Angeles relies heavily on ground water for subsistent use. Having a limited water supply, the city has historically outsourced most of the fresh water from Colorado River and Northern California. Water conservation is an important aspect, and Los Angeles authorities do all it takes to conserve the water. Los Angeles works on the development of local aquifers to ease water shortage. Efficient water usage will also ease the demand of water (Becerra 383).

The water that falls as precipitation in Los Angeles infiltrates the ground, passing through soil and rocks. Part of the water that infiltrates stays in the ground as it is absorbed by soil and other particles. The other part moves through the soil and subsurface materials. The water that infiltrates deeply recharges the aquifers. If the aquifers are porous enough, people can drill into it to get the water.

Causes of Pollution

Automobile Usage

The use of automobiles is one of the major contributors of pollution in this city. The high number of cars, trucks, and other vehicles results in fumes to be released to the atmosphere contributing to smog issue. The polluted air settles on surfaces and it is washed to the water bodies. The smog also pollutes trees at the mountains, which consequently creates water pollution of the water source. This can cause devastating effects over a large area of the city.

Polluted Runoffs

This is one of the major contributors of water contamination in Los Angeles. This type of pollution comes from the numerous industrial companies such as factories, yards with scrap metals, oil fields, and several waste treatment facilities. In addition to the industrial pollution, most of the other pollutants arise from human activities. These include the household detergents, use of fertilizers in the agricultural farms, and other household wastes.

Sewage Line Spillages

Spillage from sewage lines has adversely polluted water bodies in Los Angeles. Los Angeles frequently discharges millions of untreated sewage water into the water bodies, which poses serious health risks. Los Angeles has approximately 6500 miles of sewage lines, which pump the water to the four treatment points; however, half of the sewer line pipes are old and they constantly have spillages (Becerra 382). The sewer line spillages carry water borne diseases that can be caused by organisms that pose serious health issues. In 2009, the Regional Water Agency at Los Angeles adopted policies prohibiting septic discharge at the Malibu Civic Center (Cousins and Newell 39). This was done with the aim of conserving the Malibu Lagoon and Malibu Creek that were affected by the septic discharge. Plans are also underway for the construction of a waste treatment plan at this region.

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Industrial Pollution

The history of industrial pollution in Los Angeles is traced to the World War II era when most of the companies enjoyed lesser stringent measures in the way they disposed the industrial chemicals. The industries manufacturing aerospace and defense materials, dry cleaning companies and metal plating companies contributed to the current contamination experienced in this city. Some of the industries dealing with harmful solvents such as perchloroethylene and trichloroethylene, which were constituents of rocket fuels, discharged their wastes into the ground water. These chemicals are potential carcinogens as they can cause acute effects on human health.

State Oil Companies

The state oil companies have also contaminated the ground water. They contaminate the water through disposal of waste matter from the oil fields. Some of the oil waste disposal wells violate the federal laws, while others operate illegally in areas with protected aquifers. The center of biological diversity studies indicate how the illegal oil companies have disposed over 27 million gallons of oil waste to protected aquifers that have led to serious contamination of San Fernando Water Basin (Tikkanen 22). There are chemicals found in the oil wastes that have adverse effects to human health, and they are impossible to clean up once they contaminate the drinking water.

Plastic Pellets

Plastic pellets used for the manufacture of micro plastics increasingly pollute the water bodies. Millions of these plastic pellets are manufactured annually, and they end up in rivers and other fresh water bodies, harming the aquatic life. The Los Angeles water control body initiated a policy requiring the removal and clean-up of these pellets as well as prevention of future contaminations. However, there are sites that still violate this permit, and the local water agency works hard to ensure that it is implemented.

Consequences of Drinking Water Pollution

Drinking polluted water can have serious implications to the human health because it can cause serious water borne diseases, which could be fatal. Furthermore, water contaminated with industrial solvents and heavy metals contains potential carcinogens harmful to human health. Contaminating drinking water increases the costs incurred by the water agencies in treating and removing the contaminants before this water is released. This means significant efforts and money spent on remedy programs. This leads to scarcity of such an important resource as water. Contaminated water also has impacts on the aquatic life, leading to loss and extinction of important fauna and flora.

Actions that are currently taken to remedy the problem are as follows.

Use of Remediation Technologies

The environmental agency has also adopted the use of remediation technologies to treat all the sites. This technology focuses on pumping the contaminated water and pre-treating it before it is pumped to the water treatment facilities. Some of the in situ technologies are also under study such as the use of natural microbes to degrade the pollutants before the water is released. Chemical compounds that oxidize the pollutants such as hydrogen peroxide and potassium permanganate are injected to the aquifers to remove the contaminants (Fram and Belitz 3414). These chemical oxidizing agents break the chemicals into lesser toxic substances. In addition, source zone technologies have been adopted to treat contaminated soils to avoid contaminating the surface water. Los Angeles works hard to clean aluminum, cyanide toxic chemicals and zinc pollutants from the water flowing through runoff water to the ocean.

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Treatment of Contaminated Water Basin

The environmental protection agency has put up water treatment projects at San Gabriel Valley. The projects have successfully treated over 100billion gallons of water, removing over 70, 000 pounds of waste materials (Harris-Lovett 7558). Over 50,000 pounds of soil pollutants were also removed (Harris-Lovett 7558). There have been implemented water conservation methods to conserve the water. In addition, there are also cleanup projects at the San Fernando Water Basin with monitoring wells in the efforts to study the trends of water treatment.

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In own opinion, there are still many initiatives that can be adopted, especially if the residents work closely with the environmental bodies towards the conservation of water bodies, which would even lead to greater results. Changing transport methods would greatly reduce the pollution. Therefore, Los Angeles residents are urged to reduce the use of automobiles and walk more, use alternative fuels and transports that will reduce greatly pollution impacts. Significant efforts are currently under way to redeem the contaminated water bodies in Los Angeles. I believe that I contribute to the water contamination using detergents for washing and by using automobiles.

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Protecting Los Angeles water from contamination is vital as it threatens the quality of life and health of the public. Many waterways lack fundamental protection; hence, they carry toxic chemicals and trash. The existence of the Clean Water Act ensures low pollution in all the upstream sources that provide drinking water for millions of Americans. To avoid the consequences of unsafe consumption of drinking water, it is essential for the Los Angeles water Agency to treat the water and ensure that only safe drinking water is available for domestic use. Conserving the water will also reduce the costs incurred on outsourcing from different areas.