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$7.5 billion water bond could meet California’s needs during drought

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The $7.5 billion water bond measure approved by state legislators this past week could help pay for ambitious local projects, from cleaning the polluted San Fernando Valley groundwater basin to recycling treated sewage for drinking water.

The Los Angeles region depends largely on scarce and expensive imported water, and the bond funds could help reverse that dependence by increasing the local supply, experts say. At the same time, the money could help restore native rivers, improve water quality, capture stormwater runoff and even build some parks.

“It makes more sense to the community to increase our local self-reliance,” said Nancy Steele, executive director of the Council for Watershed Health in downtown Los Angeles. “This is a good investment by the public in our water infrastructure, and in our natural landscape.”

While the bill doesn’t earmark specific projects, it sets aside millions or billions for certain categories. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti lobbied for groundwater cleanup, water recycling and river restoration funds. Nothing in the water bond, though, would pay for replacing aging pipes like the one that ruptured and flooded UCLA last month.

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