Last week, the City of Santa Monica unveiled a project that will help improve beach water quality and increase the city’s drought resiliency. As we gathered in parking lot 1550 just north of the Santa Monica Pier on Tuesday morning, the city celebrated its new stormwater runoff storage tank that lies beneath our feet, below the 111 newly marked parking spots on the site.
This groundbreaking water infrastructure project is a part of Santa Monica’s Clean Beaches Project and captures 1.6 million gallons of stormwater runoff that flows off the Santa Monica Pier watershed, totaling a 106 acres of surface area. The beach at Santa Monica Pier is notorious for having poor water quality. Excess water runs off our urban and suburban landscapes and picks up many harmful contaminants and pollutants, such as trash, pesticides, automobile oils, bacteria, and heavy metals. Rather than discharging this untreated stormwater runoff into Santa Monica Bay, the polluted water near the pier now is diverted into a cistern from which it is then transferred to the Santa Monica Urban Runoff Recycling Facility (SMURRF).There, the runoff is treated and then distributed for irrigation and toilet flushing as part of the city’s purple pipe system for “recycled,” non-potable water uses. (Although, technically, purple pipe signifies recycled “wastewater,” the brightly colored pipes were used in this case to signify the repurposing of stormwater—so that people don’t mistakenly drink it.) SMURRF was once a facility that only treated dry-weather runoff, but now with the incorporation of the new stormwater cistern it will also treat wet-weather runoff as well.
As part of the fight to prevent polluted water from reaching our oceans, the Clean Beaches Project is the product of years of planning and the successful passage of Measure V, also known as Santa Monica’s Clean Beaches and Ocean Parcel Tax. This funding stream provided the City of Santa Monica the necessary resources to implement projects like this stormwater capture system, helping to pave the way to the city’s water self-sufficiency while reducing its reliance on expensive, imported water.
On the ballot this November, Los Angeles County’s voters will also see a similar opportunity to fund local projects which protect our beaches, ocean, and inland waters from stormwater pollution—Measure W. If passed, this ballot measure will generate funding for stormwater project like this and many more green infrastructure projects across LA County and its 88 cities. Voting “Yes” on Measure W would mean investing and prioritizing projects that not only reduce water pollution, but also increase LA County’s local water supply and access to green spaces.
So next time you walk past this unassuming parking lot near the Santa Monica Pier, take a moment to visualize the 1.6-million-gallon cistern that lies beneath the asphalt, which offsets the use of up to 182,500,000 gallons of drinking water per year and ask yourself: