Los Angeles Department of Water and Power

From Academic Kids

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) is the largest municipal utility in the United States, serving 3.8 million residents in 2004. It was founded in 1902 to deliver water and electricity supplies to residents and businesses in Los Angeles. William Mulholland was the first director. It is the principal land owner in the Owens Valley.


The LADWP is the leading protagonist in the struggle over access to water from the Owens Valley. This history, including the initial acquisition of water rights, as well as Mono Lake, and Owens Lake issues, are covered in the article titled "California Water Wars", and most aspects of LADWP history in the Owens Valley are handled there.

The LADWP first offered municipal electricity in 1917, when the San Francisquito Power Plant began generating electricity. It ultimately produced 70.5 megawatts and is still in operation in 2004, producing 44.5 megawatts.

In 1928 the St. Francis Dam, built and operated by the LADWP, collapsed catastrophically, killing more than 400 people in the Santa Clara River drainage. It had been inspected by Mullholland only hours earlier, and he had declared it safe. He took responsibility for the disaster and retired.

Current operations

The LADWP maintains generating capacity (7,050 megawatts) in excess of the peak demand within Los Angeles (5,400 megawatts). It provides this surplus electricity to other utilities, selling 23 million megawatt-hours in 2003. The LADWP operates four natural gas-fired generators within city boundaries, which account for a quarter of capacity. It receives half of its electricity from coal-fired plants in Utah, Arizona, and Nevada, and because of that is considered one of the dirtiest public-owned utilities in the country. A further 12% is nuclear, It also receives about 12% of its electricity from hydropower, most coming from Hoover Dam over 266 miles (428 km) of and the rest coming from the aqueduct system itself. The Los Angeles City Council voted in 2004 to direct the LADWP to generate 20% of its energy (excluding Hoover Dam) from clean sources by 2017. Pilot projects include wind turbines, fuel cell power plants, and solar power.

The LADWP provided more than 200 billion US gallons (760,000,000 m³) of water in 2003, through 7,226 miles (11,629 km) of pipe. One-third (33%) of the water comes from the Sierra Nevada and flows by gravity through the Los Angeles Aqueducts for 338 miles to the city. Fourteen percent is from groundwater, a local resource that is actively managed and allocated. The groundwater is continually being threatened by chemical pollution, such as MTBE and perchlorates. The bulk of Los Angeles's water supply (53%) comes from the Colorado River via the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) and its Colorado River Aqueduct. The prospect of increased demand (and reduced supply) is causing the LADWP to plan for a future desalination plant in Playa del Rey.

Because Los Angeles is older than most cities in California, the LADWP is currently faced by several unique issues. Most of the power lines in Los Angeles were built above-ground before it became customary to run power lines below-ground; as a result, the horizon line of the typical Los Angeles boulevard looks much more cluttered than boulevards in most Southern California cities. LADWP is slowly "undergrounding" power lines, but the project is a low priority.

Another issue is that many of the old pipelines are beginning to wear out, or are at capacity and are insufficient to handle future demand. LADWP has undertaken pipeline replacement projects on many L.A. boulevards, like Exposition and Olympic; but the necessary lane closings have only worsened the city's chronic traffic congestion.

External links


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