Collette Gaal: Protecting Owens Valley’s Natural Habitat

By Jessica Johnson
Communications, Media and Community Affairs

Maintaining and operating nearly 315,000 acres of mostly undeveloped watershed lands is no small feat, but LADWP’s Water System does just that in the Eastern Sierra where a major portion of Los Angeles’ water supply comes from.

LADWP’s Northern District Water Operations Division has over 250 employees who work and live in Kern, Inyo and Mono counties. Their job: maintaining a number of water supply facilities including, the First and Second Los Angeles Aqueducts, several reservoirs, and hundreds of miles of canals and ditches. Within Water Operations is a dedicated watershed management group, staffed with biologists, botanists, a soil scientist, and other technical and administrative personnel who monitor the Owens Valley watershed ecosystems and the preserve water supplies to the city while protecting water quality, habitat and wildlife.

Recently, we sat down with Watershed Resources Specialist Collette Gaal, who has worked with LADWP for nine of her 25 years in the environmental field. Focusing on LADWP’s water management projects, Gaal has been a part of several enhancement projects including the Owens Lake Dust Mitigation Project and the Lower Owens River Project.

Collette Gaal with members of the LADWP Northern District Watershed Resources team at Owens Lake. From left: Jeff Nordin, Ron Tucker, Gaal, Jason Morgan and Debbie House. (Photo courtesy of Collette Gaal)

Intake: What inspired you to follow a career in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)?

CG: Growing up, I liked biology, hiking, camping and anything to do with being outdoors.

Intake: Tell us more about what you do, and some of your favorite projects you have had the chance to work on.

CG: My job includes fulfilling LADWP’s biological mitigation requirements for exporting water to Los Angeles, obtaining environmental permits for projects, maintaining the Los Angeles Aqueduct waterways and Owens Lake dust control. I also help coordinate the annual Owens Lake Bird Festival, held each April. In addition, I support measuring flow in the creeks high in the mountains. The field trips for this project are interesting because we’re in the beautiful countryside, and you have to travel a rugged four-wheel trip to get to some of these spots.

Intake: What are some of your favorite recreational activities in the Eastern Sierra?

CG: The Eastern Sierra is marvelous for many outdoor activities. Some weekends, it is hard to decide what to do. You can cross-country ski, road- or mountain-bike, kayak, explore historical mining ruins or Native American wikiups (lodges) or view the beautiful wildflowers at many elevations. I have not yet rafted the Owens River, but it is on my list!

Intake: In your opinion, what makes the Owens Valley watershed unique?

CG: The Owens Valley watershed is high desert, adjacent to the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Much of the land is owned by the City of Los Angeles and federal agencies (Inyo National Forest) and so the area is lightly populated and relatively undeveloped.  There is abundant wildlife, fascinating geology, and cultural history.  The Paiute have a large presence in the area and carry on traditional activities such as pine nut harvesting. Some of the interesting geology includes volcanic cinder cones, Bishop tuff, consolidated ash, hot springs and the weathered granite formations in the Buttermilks (Sierra Nevada foothills) and Alabama Hills.

Intake: There are a lot of community events in the Owens Valley – what events do you most look forward to each year?

CG: My favorite local event is the Bishop ultra-marathon, a benefit for Eastern Sierra Youth Outdoor Program and Inyo County Search and Rescue.  I do the 20-mile fun run (I walk a lot of it!).  It is in the Buttermilks and is a locally supported event. They even have a local caterer who cooks food at the finish line.

LADWP Hits a Home Run with Dodgers Fans

By Paola Adler
Communications, Media and Community Affairs

Few organizations are more iconic in our city than the Los Angeles Dodgers. And when the boys in blue are playing, Angelenos are watching. By partnering with the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation (LADF), the team’s official charity, LADWP has found new avenues to educate, inform and give back to our customers and local communities.

LADWP’s partnership with LADF has allowed the Department to promote our message of water conservation and energy efficiency through new and exciting customer-facing interactions. In 2018, LADWP expanded that partnership to support several local events benefiting underserved youth across Los Angeles. The partnership allows LADWP to share important information directly with our customers and communities about the service and value we provide.

A young Dodger fan enjoys clean, refreshing water from the tap.

At two recent LADF events, the RBI Playerfest in June and the unveiling of a new Dodger Dreamfield in September in South Los Angeles, thousands of youth and their parents from across Los Angeles were served pure, clean, refreshing tap water directly from the LADWP water trailer.

With a commitment from LADF to build more fields, LADWP plans to be an integral partner alongside other municipal agencies, including Recreation and Parks, to partner on various beneficial projects at locations where Dodger Dreamfields can also be built, bringing added value to our customers.

Also in September, employees brought LADWP’s sponsorship of the Biofreeze Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation 5K/10K to the next level.

A group of LADWP employees swapped out their work shoes for running shoes to participate in the race, wearing lime green shirts to promote LADWP’s electric vehicle programs, making them easy to spot in the sea of 11,000 runners wearing Dodger blue.The event also featured LADWP’s water trailer, which helped to keep thirsty runners hydrated.

A Learning Opportunity

In addition to connecting with Dodgers fans at local events, LADWP also had a unique opportunity to turn a local power outage into an important teaching moment for customers throughout the city. When a mylar balloon hit a power line at Dodger Stadium during a game on the night of July 30, 2018, power flow to the venue was interrupted for two seconds, causing the game to be delayed for 20 minutes in order to reset equipment and lighting.

The Department worked in close coordination with Dodgers staff and stadium personnel to ensure power was restored quickly and safely. Many watching the game wondered why the power had gone out. LADWP was quick to respond to inquiries via social media and our newsroom, utilizing the outage as an opportunity to educate customers about the danger of mylar balloons, which cause 150 outages per year on average in the city. Turning a negative into a positive, many customers became better informed, helping to raise awareness about the serious impacts of mylar ballons on electrical equipment and helping protect the power grid.

LADWP’s water trailer makes a splash at the 5k/10k Dodger Foundation run.

LADWP hopes to continue to foster this connection with Dodgers fans in the future, and is planning to participate in several events in 2019. Stay tuned!

LADWP Helps Dry Cleaner Save Big on Electric Bill

By Carol Tucker
Communications, Media and Community Affairs

How did the owner of a West Los Angeles cleaning business reduce his electricity bill by 30 to 40 percent without spending a dime? Simple—he let LADWP do the work for him.

“After LADWP came and changed all the lights, my electricity went down 30 to 40 percent,” said Tang Pham, owner of V.I.P. Cleaners on Sepulveda Boulevard. “I’m so happy. I urge all business to do this. It worked out beautifully, and I didn’t pay anything out of my pocket.”

Nearly 21,000 businesses have benefited from free energy and water efficiency upgrades since 2012 thanks to LADWP’s Commercial Direct Install (CDI) program. Located throughout Los Angeles, these customers include mom and pop grocery stores, retail shops, mid-size businesses, warehouses, charter schools, churches, and apartment complexes. The amount of energy savings being achieved is estimated at over 237.7 gigawatt-hours per year—equivalent to removing about 39,600 homes from the grid or reducing greenhouse gas emissions by about 89,960 metric tons per year.

“LADWP has made great strides in energy efficiency, tripling the amount of energy our customers save over the last few years,” said David H. Wright, LADWP general manager. “We plan to continue building on that success with new and enhanced programs designed to reach more customers and make it easier for customers to participate.”

The CDI Program is available to any business or other non-residential customers whose average monthly electrical demand is 250 kilowatts (kW) or less. Some of the energy and water saving upgrades available include energy efficient lighting systems, LED exit signs, low-flow water devices, pre-rinse spray valves and other measures.

The program was first introduced by LADWP as the Small Business Direct Install (SBDI) Program for businesses with an average electricity demand of 30 kW or less. It was relaunched in 2012 to encompass small businesses and non-residential customers, such as churches, schools, neighborhood markets, retail shops and small multi-family residential housing. In 2016, LADWP began offering the program for mid-size and larger businesses and other non-residential customers using up to 200 kW. In January, LADWP raised the qualifications to non-residential customers using 250 kW per month to further increase energy and water savings throughout the city.

The program is one of LADWP’s key strategies for transitioning to 100 percent clean energy and meeting city and state goals and mandates for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. LADWP’s energy efficiency goal is to reduce energy use by 15 percent from 2017 through 2027. That represents a cumulative energy savings of nearly 26 percent since 2010.