This California Drought Changes Everything

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This California Drought Changes Everything California is in the grips of a severe multi-year drought. The consequences have rippled throughout the state and the economy with conservation measures being implemented virtually everywhere. In Los Angeles not only is the drought driving conservation measures and a rethink of how the city collects and consumes water, it is also having a hugely detrimental impact on our urban forest. While mature trees can survive a few years of below average rainfall, beyond that they start to suffer. Younger trees that have yet to become established suffer immediately from insufficient rainfall and often die. Our friends over at TreePeople have done an amazing job of public education and advocacy around this drought as well as working to save many mature trees throughout the region.

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                                                          Spotted April 2015: Dead Tree @ Central & 18th St

Stormwater Management & Trees In the short term we cannot do much to reduce our dependence on potable water to keep our trees alive. In this regard it is important to remember however that tree-planting also contributes to the sustainability of water supplies. First, our tree wells are typically 4’x6’ in size thus creating 24 square feet of permeable surface through which rainwater can be filtrated not only purifying polluted stormwater runoff but also allowing for the replenishment of underwater groundwater supplies. Trees also contribute to reducing urban heat island effect that results from dark impermeable surfaces such as rooftops and parking lots absorbing the sun’s heat and then radiating it back into the atmosphere. By raising surface temperatures, heat island effect thus raises atmospheric temperatures causing faster evaporation of moisture thereby increasing water demand. For more information about stormwater, please refer to one of our old blog posts here.

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Examples of trees “capturing” rainwater vs. losing water down stormdrain

Planting Drought-Tolerant Trees We are carefully selecting the tree species we plant in the industrial neighborhoods to make sure they are drought-tolerant as well as attractive and shade-giving varieties. 

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Some drought-tolerant trees we plan to plant, from left to right: Silk, Golden Rain & Catalina Ironwood

The Purple Pipe is Coming At IDG we are committed to long term sustainable solutions in everything we do. We have been asked how our tree-planting efforts and associated watering regime contribute to sustainability. First and foremost, we are actively exploring opportunities to water our trees with non-potable water. The DWP is discussing the possibility of extending a purple pipe to bring a ‘fill station’ for recycled waste water downtown via Elysian Park and the Cornfield from its current terminus in Taylor Yard. IDG will be advocating for a fill station to be included. But this solution is years away and we cannot wait until then to do something.

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Purple pipes carry recycled water 

Rain Barrels in the Industrial District We are currently exploring procuring and installing rain water barrels to capture rain water from area businesses supportive of our cause. Visit this link to learn more about how to get one for free from the City. 

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Photo by Keep Los Angeles Beautiful

Dry wells and Bioswales  As part of our tree-planting projects and streetscape improvement/greening projects, we will be advocating for & implementing dry wells and bioswales.   These systems could either retain or detain stormwater on-site instead of sending it polluted down to the LA River and out to the ocean.  Bioswales could also aid in the support and enhancement of urban wildlife corridors and urban biodiversity.  

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Examples of swales

Support Us We need YOUR help to continue to plant trees & work towards sustainable solutions like these for our downtown community! Please consider making a donation today. Thank you for your consideration & please do not hesitate to reach out with questions about our work or to learn more about how to get involved.

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Greening the industrial spaces between downtown’s high-rises and the LA River.


California Releaf