LA Business Journal’s CFO of the Year

Q & A with Ann M. Santilli

By Mia Rose-Wong

Ann Santilli is LADWP’s Chief Financial Officer, managing an annual budget of over $5.5 billion. With over 30 years working in the Los Angeles government utility sector, Santilli has helped helped LADWP overcome many challenging issues. As CFO, Ann provides leadership, direction and management of the Department’s financial team. She oversees the Financial Services Organization (FSO), directing LADWP’s Accounting and Financial Reporting Division, Finance and Risk Control Division, Internal Audit Division, Corporate Performance, Budget Office, and Financial Planning and Rates.

Following Ann’s recent win as the Los Angeles Business Journal’s Government CFO of the Year, she talks with Intake about her background in finance and offers some helpful tips for Angelenos.

What brought you into the world of finance?

When I was in high school I had an opportunity to take accounting courses in my junior and senior year. I really enjoyed the classes and thought they made sense. In my senior year, I decided to pursue a degree in business from Cal State Northridge.

What would you tell your 21-year old self?

Don’t underestimate yourself. Yes, there will be other people with more experience, but don’t shy away from higher level work. Also, mistakes will happen. Learn from them and move on. Do not let mistakes slow you down or reduce your desire to contribute. Also, don’t wait for someone to ask you to do work that you know is needed. Initiating work shows you understand and care about the results and understand why it is needed. Lastly, remember your career is a marathon, not a sprint. You will likely not get every promotional opportunity you apply for, and there will always be someone to say “no” to your ideas; but don’t let that discourage you. Maintaining your positive, can-do attitude and strong work ethic will work to your advantage.

As CFO, I’m sure you have your share of challenges, what would you say is the most challenging aspect of your job? The most rewarding?

The most challenging part of my role is balancing all the different tasks that come to Financial Services. I am fortunate to work with a very talented group of managers who have also been at LADWP for close to 30 years. They are masters at their craft! Together we get through tough situations and leverage our finances to make infrastructure improvements keep utility rates low. The most rewarding part is seeing the results of our work, both inside and outside of Financial Services.

How has women in leadership evolved since you began your career in finance?

Women in leadership has steadily increased over my career. When you look at LADWP and some of the vendors we work with you can see more women as part of the teams and in management roles. Women have not moved too much into the operational side of utilities. I would like to see that happen over the next few years.

You work for a $5.5 billion-dollar government organization, what financial tools do you use that can help the everyday household maintain good financial health?

Using a budget in your everyday household is a great tool. This will help you make decisions and plan for the future. We all have limited income, and cannot say “yes” to everything we want to spend money on. Understanding what you spend your money on is the first step to getting a better handle on your finances. Once you know what you spend your money on you can match it up to your income, plan your spending, work toward your savings goals, and be in control of your finances. It’s too easy to overspend with credit cards today. A household budget can help avoid overspending, unnecessary stress, and paying unnecessary interest.

What does receiving this award mean to you?

I was very honored to be nominated for the award and to receive it. In a certain sense the nomination meant a bit more because it was by my colleagues. LADWP has many employees and we all work hard. Having someone inside LADWP acknowledge that makes you realize that your willingness to help to achieve the desired results does not go unnoticed.




LaWanda Davis: LADWP’s “First Lady” of Utility Pre-Craft Trainees

By Carol Tucker

LaWanda Davis was early for her first day of work as an LADWP Utility Pre-Craft Trainee (UPCT).  It was April 2011 – the first day of the first class of UPCTs. As people came in and took their seats, Davis realized she’d be the only woman among 35 people in the program.

“I was a little concerned, especially when I found out we’d be rotating to work areas that were predominantly men.” said Davis. “I was 51 years old and I needed a job. I had a lot of hope when I learned we would be trained and paid and have a chance to work in a permanent position at LADWP.”

Davis, who goes by the nickname L.J. (the initials of her first and middle names), is the first woman from the first UPCT class. As such, she earned the title of “First Lady.”

“I feel honored to be called the ‘First Lady’ and proud to be part of the UPCT program representing a place for women,” Davis said. Her success in the program shows that “if you challenge yourself to do what may look hard, or even impossible at the time, it can be a positive and motivating experience for you and an example to others that they can succeed as well.”

woman carries batting on her shoulder

L.J. Davis carries attic batting for a weatherization job while working as a UPCT.

Whether working 20 feet high on manlift, carrying 50-pound bags of cement, climbing ladders or working on rooftops, Davis never wanted to be treated differently because of her gender and never shied away from trying new things. “My mindset was that I didn’t want any special privileges, that I wanted to learn about everything that was offered to me and try to do the best I could do,” she said.

Starting in 2011, the UPCT Program is a joint effort between IBEW Local 18 and LADWP, working together with community-based organizations, to provide permanent civil service jobs for people living in low-income and underserved communities of Los Angeles. “UPCT is a collaborative labor, management and community approach to provide pathways to good paying jobs, and life-changing experience is the strength of the UPCT Program,” said Shawn McCloud, Assistant Business Manager of IBEW Local 18.

The UPCT is designed as a feeder class that will train skilled workers in a variety of crafts jobs at LADWP, including steam plant assistant, electrical mechanic, electrical distribution mechanic, electrical craft helper, maintenance and construction helper, water utility worker, and other civil service positions.

The goal is to provide a career path for new employees to fill critical job classes, but the program has also served as a conduit to a variety of permanent civil service jobs. Since its inception, LADWP has hired 372 UPCTs from 14 cohorts. Of those, 207 have promoted into permanent civil service positions in critical and non-critical job classes.

“We wanted to provide career paths for people who experienced difficulties finding full-time employment,” said McCloud during a presentation to the Board of Water and Power Commissioners. “The program needed to be inclusive and designed so that we could address background challenges and other challenges such as getting to work. Some of these challenges even include convictions.” For more difficult cases, managers will write letters to City Personnel on behalf of the UPCT candidate.

A key element of the program is getting the word out in underserved communities. “We attend job fairs and events at churches and backyards – anywhere there is a table. The UPCTs themselves give back by volunteering to work at tables in communities where they grew up, and talk about their experiences at LADWP,” McCloud said. Going forward, LADWP and IBEW are working together to enhance virtual and in-person training platforms to ensure tools and resources are in place that will provide opportunities for UPCTs to be successful.

Davis had trouble finding full-time permanent employment prior to joining the UPCT program. “The places I applied to were not hiring or not responding to my applications,” she said. She found part-time work at her children’s school, then learned about the UPCT program as it was just being established.

Her early hopes never diminished from Day 1 as a UPCT. LaWanda relished the exposure to all types of work environments at LADWP, knowing that the experience increased her eligibility for a variety of jobs. UPCT employees rotate to different locations every six months in areas such as electrical substation construction, electrical substation maintenance, energy efficiency or weatherization work, mechanical repair shop, stores, test lab, water conservation and water distribution among other areas.

Never afraid to try something new to advance her marketability, Davis earned licenses to run a forklift and manlift, learned to use a harness and to drive an F150 truck, or pie wagon to transport supplies for the Department’s Home Energy Improvement Program (HEIP).

While working in HEIP, Davis even took the initiative to learn a little Russian. Her team was performing weatherization work at an apartment building where the occupants spoke only Russian and didn’t understand when the LADWP workers tried to give them a free device to monitor their electricity use.

Ever the go-getter, Davis downloaded an app on her phone that translated English words and phrases into Russian. “I introduced myself and explained we were giving them a device to monitor their electricity, and it was free. They understood and were very happy to have it,” she said.

Davis enjoyed learning the trades but also knew it was important to take civil service tests and apply for every job for which she felt qualified. She had honed her typing skills since seventh grade, so the Clerk Typist position was a perfect fit. In 2014, she was picked up permanently from the Clerk Typist position list of candidates, and hired to work in the Executive Office of the Water System Personnel Division under Linda Le, who is now LADWP’s Chief Administrative Officer.

Since then, Davis was promoted to Senior Administrative Clerk Typist, working in a district office as a timekeeper.  She recently transferred again to a new position in Power Transmission and Distribution. “Being able to rotate and network in many different areas gives you a lot of exposure to people in the Department if you’re willing to learn something new,” she said. “Even if you only work with someone for six months you’ve made a connection.”

“My experience as a UPCT is something that no amount of money could buy, and nothing could replace what this program has provided for me and my family,” Davis said.

 

Feature photo of  LaWanda Davis by Art Mochizuki




Keeping the Faith During an Extraordinary Year: LADWP’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Albert Rodriguez

At the close of 2019 and the early months of 2020, LADWP employees began seeing increased media reports about a new and mysterious virus. At first it seemed like nothing more than a faraway story, but all too quickly, it became apparent that a full-scale pandemic was spreading across the globe. Soon, our TV screens were filled with images of upturned lives, devastated local economies and overwhelmed medical and government functions. By March, we watched with bated breath as COVID-19 was poised to engulf Southern California like a menacing, slow-forming tsunami wave taking shape across our collective horizon.

As with any organization, the evolving situation presented a challenge to LADWP. How would the Department carry out its critical function of providing reliable water and power to residents of the City of Los Angeles? What if a large percentage of its workforce suddenly became infected, sick, hospitalized or worse? How would customers who lost jobs and income be able to shelter in place without water and electricity, much less pay for those services? These were some of the most pressing issues facing LADWP leadership at the onset of the pandemic.

Dedication, Teamwork, Ingenuity

Attention to detail was the order of the day for Edmund J. Chavis and other custodial staff as they set out to clean and sanitize all LADWP facilities as much as possible, keeping their fellow employees safe from the spread of COVID-19.

The immediate internal response was to launch Critical Continuity of Operation plans to keep the Department running and to protect employees and their work environment in order to limit the spread of the disease. A telecommuting policy was put in place, greatly reducing the amount of people within LADWP buildings and facilities at any given time.

Overnight, the important, everyday work of custodial crews took on a new significance and became all the more meaningful. Their increased efforts to wipe down and sanitize equipment and high-traffic areas and surfaces at LADWP facilities made them the first line of defense in the battle against COVID. It was certainly not lost on employees who warmly greeted custodial staff with heartfelt appreciation for staying on the job to help protect others.

Switching from sewing upholstery for vehicle seats and other related items, Master Upholsterer Francisco Villalobos-Casillas became a Master Mask Maker as the Department looked for in-house solutions to the pandemic.

Employees were asked to don face masks and wash their hands often, but with a national shortage of facemasks and hand sanitizer, it was imperative that the Department look inward for innovative solutions. The LADWP Upholstery Shop on Main Street was repurposed to start producing face masks, especially those made of fire-resistant material required by the 3,000 employees who work in high-voltage environments. Fire-resistant fabric was cut out of safety shirts, pants and handkerchiefs that were in stock. At its peak, the upholstery shop was distributing nearly 200 fire-resistant masks a day under the expertise of master upholsterer Francisco Villalobos-Casillas.

When Supply Chain Services (SCS) was unable to purchase hand sanitizer for employees due to its scarcity in the marketplace, they looked to the industrial chemists within the Power Construction & Maintenance Test Lab. These employees were able to produce hundreds of gallons of the vital disinfectant and, through cooperation with SCS, got it bottled and distributed to LADWP facilities. Likewise, many other shops came together to ensure a safe working environment for all employees, from installation of plexiglass barriers at workstations, fabrication of thermometer self-check stations and disinfectant dispensers to eye-catching social distancing signage and messaging; all of which attest to the skills and versatility of LADWP employees stepping up to do their part and take care of their fellow co-workers.

Sheet Metal Worker Douglas Skinner with hand sanitizer dispensers made in-house and distributed to LADWP facilities.

Focus on Leadership and Optimism 

As employees settled into the new reality of living and working under pandemic conditions, they looked to LADWP leadership for guidance and encouragement. General Manager and Chief Engineer Martin L. Adams’ optimism and confidence helped buoy the spirits of the Department during this historic crisis. Adams’ constant and reassuring presence through video updates and the first-ever, virtual Employee Town Hall helped galvanized employees and gave them the clear direction needed to work through the uncertainty of the time. His message was to take care of each other and take time to de-stress in order to focus on the Department’s core mission. LADWP’s critical role in providing a reliable water and power supply to a city of 4 million people, desperate for normalcy, was something that simply could not stop.

“We know that many of us will not be returning to the office anytime soon and that we are all doing a balancing act with family and work while at the same time, the city is relying on us,” said Adams in one of his earlier messages.

Marty Adams: “As essential workers, we have to continue providing critical services. We know that what we are doing to safeguard each other is working. We will continue working the plan and continue doing our jobs. Through the ingenuity and creativity of our employees looking out for one another, we will all get through this together.”

The Department also launched an employee appreciation campaign with posters, videos and stories, all highlighting the way LADWP is persevering and getting the job done. The campaign highlighted LADWP’s own essential workers embodying LADWP’s core values, and committed to the mission of delivering critical services to our customers.

Helping Our Customers 

LADWP’s external response to the pandemic was to assure customers that their water supply was safe, thanks to a thorough, state-of-the-art treatment, testing, monitoring and well-maintained distribution system. The message was reiterated that COVID-19 is spread through person-to-person contact and not through water, and that LADWP’s water supply has redundancies in place in the event of any disruption. Thanks to LADWP’s safety protocols, our customers could rest easy knowing they could count on reliable, high-quality drinking water during the pandemic.

To protect customers and employees, all in-person services and residential and commercial customer programs were suspended on March 19. This included program outreach, enrollments, installations, inspections and workshops. Customer Service Centers were closed on March 20 and customers were encouraged to pay their bills online, by phone, by mail or take their payments to a LADWP drop box. With many customers experiencing financial hardship due to the pandemic’s effect on the local economy, customers were also offered flexible payment plans.

Customer Service Representatives handled a deluge of calls and processed thousands of applications for low-income, Lifeline and the federal CARES program. Pictured is CSR Lisa Prieto.

In a gesture of compassion and empathy, the first-ever bill relief plan was enacted as LADWP announced it would not shut off services for non-payment. Customers who received a disconnection notice in the mail were told to disregard it, while late fees were also discontinued. In October, LADWP and the LA City Council passed the federally funded CARES Utility Assistance Program. This provided one-time, $500 grants to income-qualified customers to help pay utility bills, allowing the most financially impacted customers to maintain their indispensable water and electric service. Approximately 560 LADWP employees helped process 77,337 applications. The Department had lived up to the concept of being a neighborhood utility, one in which it viewed its customers as partners, vital to the efforts of keeping the city functioning while awaiting a better, brighter tomorrow.

Commitment, Reliability, and Hard Work

Out in the field, the pandemic situation was just as dire and urgent. Meter Reading, Power, and Water Distribution crews were all placed on rotational shifts of up to 50 percent and start times were staggered in order to minimize the number of employees congregating in the yards. To further protect employees, working pods were established to limit contact with other crews, hand sanitizer dispensers were made available and extra vehicles were provided to accommodate single-rider occupancy. Vehicles, tools and equipment were meticulously sanitized before and after use. All employees were routinely reminded to maintain proper hygiene and social distance to protect their co-workers, family and customers.

Erick Reyes is among the Field Service Reps who continued checking meters during the pandemic.

Some of the most publicly visible employees were meter readers who had to step up their customer services skills. Tasked with entering properties to access meters, these employees had to contend with customer reticence and apprehension. They did it successfully with a great deal of diplomacy.

“Our meter readers rose to the challenge by coming to work and successfully reading the vast majority of our meters within the three-day window for each billing cycle,” said Luis Y. Terrazas, Assistant Director of Field Operations. “In doing so, we minimized the amount of estimated reads for the bulk of our customers. Employees also worked safely during this crisis and our reported injuries for 2020 are the lowest since 2009.”

With the arrival of summer, field crews were hit with the added complications of social upheaval in the streets, extreme heat storms and falling ash from wildfires. All of these developments added to increased safety concerns for our field crews. At the height of the protests and disturbances, crews working in affected areas were instructed to return to their districts. Meter readers stopped their work, resulting in estimated billing for some residential customers in affected neighborhoods. Crews that had to respond to major emergencies required escort by LADWP security and/or LAPD officers.

With fierce determination, employees all across LADWP continued to perform their jobs under the difficult conditions brought on by the year 2020.

Then came the extreme heat events and fires, which made it tougher for crews walking the sidewalks, climbing poles or cutting and installing pipe down in trenches. Having to wear masks while performing strenuous physical activity created exasperatingly difficult breathing conditions. There was seemingly no reprieve as unhealthful, ashen-laden air from some of the largest wildfires in state history blanketed the L.A. Basin. This made employees more susceptible to dehydration and heat exhaustion. Still, field crews endured and carried on while taking important safety precautions. They increased their water intake, set up shade and scheduled the most arduous tasks for the early morning or evening.  With perseverance, planning and stamina, they continued providing critical services in spite of what fate had thrown at them.

“All our crews should be commended for performing as they have while adjusting to the changes and safety precautions required of them,” said Walter Rodriguez, Assistant Director of Power Transmission and Distribution. “They dealt with adversity through two unprecedented heat storms while restoring power, providing new service and working to strengthen our grid for increased reliability to all our customers. This was all done with minimal incidents or injuries.”

The Value of Water and Power Service

“The commitment, dedication and willingness to respond of all our employees are important factors in maintaining the reliability of our city’s water distribution system and our power grid. These admirable traits coupled with an incredible work ethic are truly critical in our efforts to collectively see our way through this very challenging period.”
— Water Distribution Division Director Breonia Lindsey

Keeping the water and power flowing coupled with enhanced customer service is LADWP’s core mission, but this responsibility has a much deeper meaning. LADWP provides the vital water and electricity that allows for small miracles every day – enabling children to attend school online, running a small business, driving through a city with working traffic signals, drinking a glass of refreshing water, having clean clothes, taking a hot shower, or simply being able to turn on the lights on the darkest of nights. These things are what really keep the social fabric, economic vitality and civility of our city intact. It is what LADWP employees have always known and why they work so hard.

Although we do not know what 2021 will bring us, we know there are constants that will remain certain and unshakeable. LADWP will continue to keep faith in its values. Its employees will continue looking out for one another with love and devotion to their duties, serving the City of Los Angeles through any uncertainty or turbulence born of extraordinary crises.




New Receiving Station at LAX Ready for Takeoff

By Deborah Hong

Construction on LADWP’s first in-basin receiving station in more than three decades is ready for takeoff at the Los Angeles International Airport.

LADWP and Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) broke ground on RS-X in November 2020 at LAX. The first in-basin receiving station built since 1987, RS-X marks an important power reliability project and supports the airport’s modernization plans by providing redundant power to all major LAX facilities.

The new customer station will feature advanced substation automation, redundant power supply capability, up-to-date circuit breaker technology, relaying equipment, fault detection systems and fiber-optics network communications between LADWP stations.

“LAX is the nation’s second busiest airport, so RS-X is critical in maintaining the airport’s power reliability, resiliency, and ensuring a safe and positive experience for the traveling public,” said General Manager and Chief Engineer Martin Adams.
Expected to be completed in 2023, the project represents a significant partnership between the two agencies. LADWP is the designer and technical expert on the project and LAWA will construct the underground-to-grade enabling infrastructure.

“RS-X is a critical piece of infrastructure to provide the necessary resources for LAWA’s electrification efforts in addition to increasing reliability and resiliency, and demonstrates the collaborative spirit between two sister agencies,” said Louis Ting, Director of LADWP’s Power Planning, Development and Engineering.

Under the leadership of the Power Planning, Development and Engineering Division, LADWP’s Power Construction and Maintenance Division will construct RS-X and the Power Transmission and Distribution Division will install the final connections. The design by Substation Engineering Section engineers incorporates the latest technologies. The Major Projects and Generation Engineering Section will ensure designs and construction comply with LADWP standards.

The Distribution System Development and Engineering Section will oversee appropriate electrical connections into LAX. Civil and Structural Engineering staff has reviewed LAWA’s designs, and Power System Drafting has produced the necessary prints for LAWA engineers and construction crews.

Power System’s Electrical and General Construction forces will equip the station with high voltage equipment, structural steel racks, specialized relays and metering and control systems, and will perform start-up testing and commissioning. Power Distribution Construction will connect the appropriate distribution cables and wires. LADWP will operate the station once completed.

Feature photo:
LADWP and LAWA project teams at the groundbreaking of RS-X. (Photo by Chris Corsmeier)




LADWP, City of LA Offer $500 Grants for Low-Income Residents Impacted by COVID

To help customers financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, LADWP joined forces with the Office of Council President Nury Martinez in November to offer the Utility CARES Grant Program and provide one-time relief checks of  $500 to low-income Los Angeles residents. The program, budgeted for $50 million, was made possible through federal CARES Act funding received by the City to assist struggling low-income Angelenos with utility costs.

Thanks to concerted outreach by LADWP, the Council and Mayor’s offices, and community partners, the program garnered over 77,300 applications. Of those, 67,315 applications met eligibility criteria and were accepted, representing $33,657,500 in grants that will be provided to customers.

The program was offered for two weeks in November and extended for a week (November 23) to give more people a chance to apply. LADWP expected to start issuing checks around the middle of December – just in time for the holidays.

To be eligible for the grant, residents had to meet the household income eligibility requirements and be able to provide documentation demonstrating they were financially impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic.




Operation NEXT: LA’s Next Major Water Source

Sustainability and resiliency drive the need for developing a local water supply

By Carol Tucker

With purchased imported water becoming increasingly unreliable and costly and anticipated extended dry periods, the need for a local sustainable water supply has never been greater. LADWP has continually worked to expand local water resources through four key strategies: stormwater capture, groundwater remediation and replenishment, water conservation, and recycled water for irrigation, industrial, and environmental uses.

Now LADWP has embarked on a visionary and transformational initiative to further improve the overall water supply resiliency and reliability for Los Angeles. The initiative, dubbed Operation NEXT, will help achieve L.A.’s local water supply goal of recycling 100 percent of available purified wastewater from the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant by 2035, creating a sustainable new water source for Los Angeles.

“Looking to the future, LADWP and the City of Los Angeles are focused on becoming Water Strong – building resilient, sustainable local water supplies,” said Rich Harasick, Senior Assistant General Manager, Water System. “Beginning with William Mulholland’s vision of the L.A. Aqueduct, the Department has had the foresight to understand our city’s growing need for water, and invested heavily in water infrastructure.”

“Operation NEXT is our generation’s vision for ensuring a sustainable and resilient water supply for future generations” – Rich Harasick, Senior Assistant General Manager, LADWP Water

A partnership with Los Angeles Sanitation and Environment (LASAN), Operation NEXT and LASAN’s Hyperion 2035 programs will maximize production of purified recycled water from the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant to replenish the city’s groundwater basins for future use and to augment LADWP’s own supplies at the Los Angeles Aqueduct Filtration Plant. LADWP is working with regulators to potentially allow integrating purified recycled water with the drinking water supply by blending it with imported water sources. The process, known as direct potable reuse (DPR), would further expand the use of purified recycled water from Hyperion and other city water reclamation plants as a supplemental local water source.

Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant, operated by L.A. Sanitation, will be retrofitted with advanced treatment facilities for producing purified recycled water. (Photo courtesy of the Mayor’s Office)

Located in Playa Del Rey, the Hyperion plant is one of the largest water reclamation plants in the nation, treating an average daily flow of 260 million gallons per day (MGD) to full secondary standards. Approximately 27 percent of this water is currently being recycled for in-plant, irrigation, industrial and other non-potable uses in the L.A. area. Under the Operation NEXT and Hyperion 2035 programs, LASAN will retrofit Hyperion’s existing conventional treatment process with advanced treatment processes (membrane bioreactors or equivalent, reverse osmosis, and advanced oxidation), to produce up to 174 MGD of purified recycled water. That represents enough water to sustain 780,000 Los Angeles homes.

It will be LADWP’s job to transport that purified recycled water to replenish groundwater aquifers in the West Coast, Central and San Fernando Basins that have been drawn down due to more hardscape and increased pumping to meet growing demands.  A portion of this new water supply will eventually be pumped inland to the Los Angeles Aqueduct Filtration Plant for additional treatment and integration with the drinking water system, said Rafael Villegas, Operation NEXT Program Manager in LADWP’s Water Resources Division.

“We are essentially creating a new local water source, offsetting the need for importing purchased water supplies from hundreds of miles away, and also reusing this valuable resource that would otherwise go into the ocean,” Villegas said.

Water for a Thirsty City

The L.A. Aqueduct first opened in 1913, bringing water to a thirsty city from the Eastern Sierra. (Photo by Art Mochizuki)

Historically, LADWP has relied on three main sources of water: the Los Angeles Aqueduct System, local groundwater, and supplemental water purchased from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD). MWD water is delivered via the Colorado River Aqueduct and the State Water Project, which conveys water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta south to Southern California through the California Aqueduct.

Providing water for Los Angeles has never been easy. The city’s growing populous depleted its original water source—the Los Angeles River—early in its history. William Mulholland, the first Chief Engineer of the city’s Municipal Water Department, built the Los Angeles Aqueduct to convey water from the pristine Eastern Sierra mountains through the Owens Valley to Los Angeles, flowing by gravity only.

After the first Los Angeles Aqueduct, LADWP built the extension to Mono Basin and then formed a regional consortium that became MWD, which developed the Colorado River Aqueduct in 1935. In the 1970s, LADWP built the second L.A. Aqueduct to expand the water supply from the Owens Valley.

During the dry periods of the late 1980s through mid-1990s, LADWP began relying more on imported water purchased from MWD. That trend has continued due to dry periods and legal commitments for environmental stewardship on L.A. Aqueduct water from the Eastern Sierra.

Over the last 20 years, LADWP has purchased water supply from MWD ranging from up to 75 percent at the peak of a recent multi-year dry period. Imported supplies continue to be less predictable due to hydrologic variability and continued impacts of climate change. Operation NEXT will help provide a new reliable local water supply to serve the city’s growing population and water needs.

Constraints on Our Water Supply

Today, the city only receives about half of its historic water supply from the
LA Aqueduct while the remainder stays in the Owens Valley and Mono Basin to meet environmental commitments. Meanwhile, MWD’s water sources are also facing challenges. The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta faces environmental restrictions on water conveyance related to a declining fish species, and increasing regulatory requirements to protect the remaining populations, according to the California Department of Water Resources.  The Colorado River has also been impacted by climate change and uncertainty around future allocations. Additional external challenges to L.A.’s imported water sources include seismic risk, variable hydrology, and rising costs.

In terms of the city’s local water supply, the quality of L.A.’s groundwater supply has been severely impacted by past industrial practices. LADWP has undertaken significant investments to remediate the groundwater supply and recover the use of this important local resource. At the same time, LADWP has been working with L.A. County Flood Control and the L.A. City Department of Public Works on a variety of projects to replenish the groundwater. Ranging from large infrastructure efforts like improving the Tujunga Spreading Grounds to neighborhood-level stormwater capture improvements, these projects will expand the capacity for capturing stormwater runoff and recharging groundwater aquifers.

Rendering of the Tujunga Spreading Grounds Enhancement Project, which will double the capacity for capturing stormwater that percolates into the basin.

Water conservation is also a key strategy for enhancing the local water supply. But while L.A.’s residents and businesses are vigilant about saving water (water use was lower in 2019 than it was in 1970 despite over one million more residents), conservation efforts alone won’t ensure we can meet L.A.’s future water needs.

“The purchased imported water supplies are such that almost annually we get less water allocated even under normal conditions, and the availability of this water will only worsen,” Villegas said. “With population growth and changing hydrology, there will be increased demand on purchased imported water supplies. We need to be less dependent on that supply so we can ensure city’s vitality for next 100 years.”

Collaborations

Given the initiative’s enormity (the estimated cost of Operation NEXT and Hyperion 2035 is over $8 billion), LADWP is engaged in two pilot projects with LASAN to study the feasibility of converting Hyperion into a fully advanced water purification facility. LADWP and LASAN are collaborating on the Hyperion Advanced Water Purification Facility that will serve nearby Los Angeles International Airport. The pilot project will provide 1.5 MGD of advanced treated recycled water for heating, cooling, toilet flushing and other non-potable uses.

The second pilot project is to develop a 1 MGD Hyperion Membrane Bioreactor (MBR) Pilot Facility that will compare and monitor three MBR systems side-by-side. The goal is to determine the best treatment technology for the future full transformation of Hyperion to recycle 100 percent of the available wastewater for beneficial use.

Challenges and Next Steps

Once the purified recycled water from Hyperion is ready, one of the biggest challenges will be distributing and storing the new water source. Villegas’ team is working with the Water Replenishment District of Southern California, which is the Watermaster of the West Coast and Central Groundwater Basins, on a joint masterplan to evaluate the best groundwater locations for injecting and extracting Hyperion purified recycled water. Scheduled for completion in 2022, the plan will identify preferred locations for injecting the purified recycled water into aquifers within the local groundwater basins.

LADWP also plans to convey to the purified recycled water to the San Fernando Groundwater Basin, where it would eventually be extracted, treated, and blended into the drinking water distribution system. Should DPR regulations allow, LADWP’s strategic priority will be to send the purified recycled water to the Los Angeles Aqueduct Filtration Plant in Sylmar for further treatment and integration with water from imported sources. Additionally, LADWP is collaborating with MWD on integrating this new local water supply into the agency’s Regional Recycled Water Program Backbone System, which is another major DPR program in Southern California.

One of the biggest hurdles for LADWP will be building virtually an entire new water distribution system, complete with new pipelines, pump stations, tanks, treatment facilities and well fields. The system will need capacity to distribute up to 200,000 acre-feet of this new local water to the groundwater basins and the filtration plant.

LADWP Manager of Water Resources Delon Kwan speaks to a recent gathering of the Water System Stakeholder Engagement Group. Outreach will be a key part of the success of Operation NEXT. (Photo by Chris Corsmeier)

The necessary infrastructure projects will touch almost every portion of the city from Sylmar to the Harbor area. Towards that end, LADWP expects to begin a programmatic environmental review process under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in early 2021, along with broad community engagement and outreach to increase awareness and understanding of L.A.’s future water needs and Operation NEXT.

“We will build upon the strong relationships and public support gained over more than a decade of concerted community engagement about the city’s need to secure an independent and resilient local water supply for Los Angeles,” said Paul Liu, Manager of Recycled Water and Groundwater Resource Planning, Policy, and Management Section.

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Charging Forward: LA Tops 10,000 Commercial EV Charging Stations

By Paola Adler

LADWP has met and exceeded its goal of supporting the installation of 10,000 commercial electric vehicle (EV) charging stations throughout the city.

As of January 1, 2021, Los Angeles has an estimated 11,045 commercial charging stations, the most of any city in the United States. L.A.’s extensive charging network provides expanded options for the city’s growing EV community, with an estimated 62,851 EVs currently registered. This milestone was surpassed two years earlier than LADWP’s goal of 10,000 commercial EV charging stations by 2022, outlined by Mayor Eric Garcetti’s 2019 Sustainable City pLAn, also known as the L.A Green New Deal.

“LADWP wants every EV owner in Los Angeles to have convenient, accessible fueling options,” said Nancy Sutley, Senior Assistant General Manager of External and Regulatory Affairs and Chief Sustainability Officer. “We have worked diligently alongside public and private partners to install and support a variety of commercial EV charging stations across the city. We are proud to have completed our goal ahead of schedule, and are looking forward to expanding this network even further, especially in underserved communities.”

The city’s commercial EV charging stations include 2,477 that are publicly accessible as well as 8,568 non-public charging stations at workplaces, fleet operations and multi-unit dwellings. Within Los Angeles, there are 10,779 commercial Level 2 charging stations and 266 DC fast chargers (DCFC), which can provide light-duty vehicles with an 80 percent battery charge in 30 minutes and can also be used to support medium- and heavy-duty EVs, such as electric buses.

Charging stations installed at Cal State LA allow students, faculty and staff to save money on fuel while helping reduce carbon emissions. (Photo courtesy of Robert Lopez)

Los Angeles is on track to meet future milestones of 25,000 commercial charging stations by 2025 and 28,000 by 2028, which will support the goal of 500,000 EVs in the city and provide EV infrastructure for the 2028 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games. The L.A. Green New Deal also aims for 80 percent electric and zero emission vehicles in the city by 2036 and 100 percent by 2045, and for 100 percent of city and transit fleets to be electrified by 2028. L.A.’s electrification efforts will also support Governor Gavin Newsom’s executive order mandating 100 percent of new passenger car sales be zero emission by 2035 and 100 percent of medium and heavy-duty vehicles be zero emission by 2045.

A large portion of charging stations were directly funded by LADWP’s Commercial EV Charging Station Rebate Program, including those located at Cal State LA. “Cal State LA hosts 55 Level 2 EV charging ports, and six DC fast chargers. These charging stations allow students, faculty and staff to save money on fuel while helping reduce carbon emissions in our region,” said Cal State LA Energy & Sustainability Manager Brad Haydel. “All Level 2 charging stations are available for two hours of free charging, and DCFC stations are free for the first hour and 20 cents per minute for the second hour.”

LADWP’s rebate program offers financial incentives to help offset the cost of equipment and installation, up to $4,000 per Level 2 charging station (or up to $5,000 if located in a disadvantaged community), up to $75,000 per DCFC, and up to $125,000 per charging station for medium- and heavy-duty EVs. As of January 1, 2021, LADWP has issued 8,157 rebates to date, with over 60 percent for multi-unit dwellings.

LADWP has installed 44 utility pole-mounted, curbside charging stations across the city, available to the public free of charge to ensure equitable access to charging infrastructure. (Photo by Chris Corsmeier)

Charging stations were installed throughout the city, on public and private properties, by third-party commercial charging station installers and by LADWP and other City of Los Angeles departments. As of January 1, 2021, LADWP has installed 953 commercial EV charging stations, an effort that includes constructing public infrastructure like EV charging plazas and utility pole-mounted chargers. The Department has also installed 15 publicly accessible DCFC stations, including the DCFC at the Los Angeles Zoo, one of the top five most utilized charging stations in North America according to PlugShare.

LADWP’s installations also include its own work locations, which has motivated employees like Stephanie Spicer to dump their gas-fueled vehicles. “Having EV charging stations at work gave me the push I needed to drive electric,” said Spicer, LADWP Community Affairs Manager. “As an LADWP employee, the switch to an electric vehicle made me feel like I’m putting our Department goals into action and making my small but important contribution to a cleaner and greener future for L.A.”

Community Affairs Manager Stephanie Spicer was motivated to switch to an EV because she could fuel up at charging stations installed at LADWP headquarters. (Photo by Chris Corsmeier)

Other City of Los Angeles departments, such as the Bureau of Street Lighting, Los Angeles Department of Transportation, Department of General Services and Los Angeles Public Library, have installed a total of 1,344 charging stations, funded through LADWP’s Commercial EV Charging Station Rebate Program, shared grant funding or direct funding from the Department. “The Los Angeles Public Library takes its role as an environmental steward seriously, and we have significantly advanced our sustainability efforts through an agreement with LADWP to install EV charging stations at libraries around the city,” said City Librarian John F. Szabo. “Currently, 11 branch libraries provide 39 EV charging stations to support the adoption of electric vehicles, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make Los Angeles greener.”

Through an agreement with LADWP, the Los Angeles Public Library has installed 39 commercial EV charging stations at 11 of its branches. (Photo courtesy of Lauren Skinner)

LADWP is continuing to enhance its “Charge Up L.A.!” EV rebate programs, focusing in particular on increasing access to disadvantaged and underserved communities. The Department currently offers an additional $1,000 rebate for eligible commercial Level 2 charging stations installed in underserved communities, and is working on increasing the rebate for income-qualified customers who purchase used EVs. LADWP’s current used EV rebate program provides up to $1,500 toward the purchase of a used battery electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle.

The Department is investing further in publicly-accessible charging infrastructure to support drivers who cannot charge at home or work. In addition to installing DCFC charging plazas throughout Los Angeles, LADWP continues to partner with City departments and third-party installers to deploy additional DCFCs at public facilities and parking lots. The Department is also supporting the Bureau of Street Lighting’s effort to install 450 streetlight EV charging stations across the city.

With EVs becoming increasingly commonplace in Los Angeles, the rapid expansion of charging station infrastructure in the city helps ensure drivers will always have a way to charge up – and may help alleviate concerns about range anxiety and access to charging for those thinking of purchasing an EV. LADWP will continue its commitment to creating and incentivizing convenient, widespread fueling options for L.A.’s EV community.

Learn more: LADWP.com/EV




Retirements: October-November 2020

We extend sincere congratulations to all the employees who, after many years of dedicated service, are joining the ranks of LADWP retirees. For a complete archive  and the latest month of retirement listings, visit the Water and Power Employees Retirement Plan website.

As of October 2020
Arnold, Elizabeth Retirement Plan Office
Blustein, Daniel E. Office of Sustainability
Bock, Eric P. Aqueduct
Briones, Santiago G. Crfs & Env Chem Lab
Calderon, Abel G. Supply Chain Services
Castillo, George A. Energy Support Services
Chou, Irving P. JFB/Facilities Mgmt
Cruz, Daniel Power Trans & Distr
D’Oyen, Cheryl D. Customer Service Division
Evans, Kelvin E. Power Supply Operations
Gomez, Carlos A. JFB/Facilities Mgmt
Haerle Ii, David M. Power Const & Maint
Higginson, Theodore R. Power Supply Operations
Houser, Ken W. Power Supply Operations
Jeffery, Robin M. Power Trans & Distr
Jeffery, Tyrone G. Power Supply Operations
Keenan, Thomas M. Power Const & Maint
Lara, Paulet C. Its Division Office
Martin, Clarence E. Water Operations
Morgan, Rhonda S. JFB/Facilities Mgmt
Richardson, Charles W. Power Reg Comp & Specs
Samonas, Chris Power Trans & Distr
Shepard-Grimes, Karen D. Customer Service Division
Tam, Richard ITS Division Office
Woodard, James R. Water Executive
Yochim, Paul A. Power Supply Operations
As of November 2020
Aguila, Walter Fleet Services
Alcantara, Joann B. Customer Service Division
Andersen, Steven C. Power Const & Maint
Brown, Merrillee L. Labor Relations
Castaneda, James A. Water Operations
Conrad, Todd H. Power New Bus Dv & Tech App
Cortez, Carmen Power Trans & Distr
De Bow, Terri L. Pt&D Energy Distribution
Eagleson, Craig D. Fleet Services
Figley, Daniel J. Power Trans & Distr
Guzman, Rochelle Supply Chain Services
Kagan, Charles M. JFB/Facilities Mgmt
Long, Brian D. Power Const & Maint
Merenstein, Brett M. Power Trans & Distr
Saldivar, Eleuterio J. Water Distribution
Sharp, Samuel Power Trans & Distr
Slattery, Edward C. Power Trans & Distr
Taguchi, Roger K. Power Const & Maint
Torrez, Jesse A. Power Trans & Distr
Warren, Michelle L. Customer Service Division



In Memoriam: August-September 2020

LADWP extends its condolences to the families and friends of current and former employees who have recently passed.  Visit the Water and Power Retired Employees’ Retirement Plan website to view and download monthly notices of retirees and active employees who have passed away.

As of August 2020

Active

Adriana B. Lopez, 57 MSFO Field Operations
Lahnaw Sandoke, 54 Power Supply Operations

Retired

Lonnie Bland, 88 General Services Fleet
Ernest W. Blank, 81 Energy Distribution
William E. Caipen, 102 Aqueduct Division
David R. Castillo, 69 Energy Distribution
George H. Claude, 96 PD&C Construction
Ronald F. Deaton, 77 General Manager’s Office
Frank Dobrovitz, 86 General Services
Richard P. Estanislao, 84 Facilities Maintenance
James R. Farrell, 96 PO&M
Jose B. Fuentes, 67 Fleet Services
Richard W. Jeffers,76 Integrated Support Services
Karl R. Jeske, 86 PO&M
Bevan D. Johnson, 81 Bulk Power
Randolph J. Leedom, 72 Water Distribution
Paul B. Mbanu, 66 FSO Accounting & Financial Reporting
James H. Moore, 85 General Services Division
Mark M. Nakamura, 91 PD&C
Richard D. Nebelsieck,81 Accounting
Gary T. Rose, 79 PD&C
Lucille J. Rowland, 91 Conservation & Planning
Catherine Saddler, 80 Water Operating Division
E.P. Scruggs, 98 Aqueduct
Erhad 0. Stocki, 85 Water Engineering
John M. Tanaka, 71 Facilities Maintenance
Manuel Traylor, 87 PO&M
Melvin Williams, 80 General Services Fleet
Jack H. Wilson, 95 PO&M
Kenneth M. Woods, 86 PDD

As of September 2020

Active

Donald B. Olkie, 53 PCM General Construction

Retired

Jared Bennett, 83

 

PDD

Donald J. Bieme, 100 Water Operating
Ronnie M. Blue, 65 Water Distribution
Girard E. Broadhag, 81 General Services
Cipriano M. Camacho, 86 PO&M
Lewis D. Chidester, 101 PD&C
Alan G. Derlighter, 59 Power Supply Operations
Robert E. Gentner, 79 Power, Planning, Development & Engineering
Robert Gonzales, 96 PO&M
Charles L. Howard, 68 Water Distribution
Sherman James, 91 PDD
Mildred G. Jones, 87 Commercial
Marvin Kaul, 94 PD&C Construction
Joe Yamagawa, 97 Water Engineering Design

 




Women Breaking Glass Ceiling at LADWP

First Female Board President and V.P. Lead First All-Female Board

With the Los Angeles City Council’s confirmation of Mia Lehrer as the newest member of the Board of Water and Power Commissioners,  LADWP has the distinction of being led by the first all-female Board in its history.

Appointed by Mayor Eric Garcetti in October, Lehrer joined four existing Board members including President Cynthia McClain-Hill, Vice-President Susana Reyes, Commissioner Jill Banks Barad, and Commissioner Nicole Neeman Brady. Lehrer filled the vacancy created by the departure of Board President Mel Levine, who had served as President since 2013–the longest-running term of any Board president.

“Mia will bring her proven leadership, firsthand experience, deep expertise, and extraordinary drive to ensuring LADWP remains one of the most sustainable, reliable, and responsible public utilities in America,” said Mayor Garcetti upon her nomination in September. “When Mia takes her seat on the Board, we will make history for our city and mark a critical moment of progress on the road to true equity — all while deepening the department’s commitment to safeguarding our environment, combating climate change, and creating good-paying jobs.”

“I’m excited and ready to join this board made up of talented and accomplished individuals who happen to be women, and who also reflect the diversity of the city we serve,” said Lehrer. “I want to thank Mayor Garcetti for this opportunity to serve and make a difference when it comes to securing an environmentally sustainable future for Los Angeles.”

It was the second time the glass ceiling was broken by LADWP’s Board of Commissioners in 2020. In July, McClain-Hill and Reyes were elected as the first female Board President and Vice President, respectfully.

“I am greatly honored to serve as President of this Board and grateful for the support of Mayor Garcetti, members of the City Council, and my fellow Board members. This is a time of unprecedented challenges, as we work to build a stronger Los Angeles by achieving our goals for clean, reliable and sustainable water and energy in the midst of an international pandemic, financial crisis, and urgent cries for racial justice and equity in our city,” McClain-Hill said.

Mayor Garcetti has made gender equity a top priority from the beginning of his term in office, taking actions to bring parity and balance into the heart of City leadership. Women currently hold more than 50% of the positions on more than 40 City Boards and Commissions.

Raised in El Salvador, Lehrer earned her Master of Landscape Architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and later founded Studio-MLA in 1996, an L.A. urban design and landscape architecture firm. She has lectured widely on landscape and urban design, including environmental and sustainability issues and the public process. Her firm has completed numerous projects including Franklin Ivar Park in Hollywood and Vista Hermosa Park in downtown Los Angeles.

During Lehrer’s first Board meeting on October 27, the Board considered key programs, including the $50 million low-income utility assistance program, restoration efforts in Mono Basin and Clean Grid L.A.  Board President McClain-Hill remarked, “Today is a historic first as we hold our first meeting as an all-female board of commissioners. It has taken us 118 years in the history of LADWP to see this day, and I’m very excited to be part of this.”