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Viterbi Environmental Engineer Shares Water Quality Prize

Benefits of New Los Angeles Stormwater Management Strategy Exceed Costs

October 18, 2005 —
  A report on preventing ocean pollution co-authored by Viterbi School environmental engineer Joe Devinny has won a prize from the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board.
Devinny collaborated with Sheldon Kamieniecki of the College department of political science and Michael Stenstrom of the UCLA civil and environmental engineer department on the report, “Alternatives for Stormwater Control.'  The trio will receive their award Oct. 20 at the Board’s annual dinner at the Long Beach Aquarium.

Another way: Report finds alternatives to proposed quater-trillion dollar water treatment plan. To download a copy of the report, click on the image.
Published in August, “Alternatives for Stormwater Control,” re-examined strategy for cleaning up the torrents of winter rainwater that rush into the ocean off urban Southern California via storm drains, picking up chemical and biological pollution on the way.

One extremely expensive ($284 billion) alternative proposed in an earlier study had involved capturing the floodwaters, and then building 65 new standard drinking water treatment plants to purify it before releasing it into the ocean. In addition to the quarter-trillion capital costs, this report estimated indirect costs in job losses at as much as an additional $170 billion.

The Devinny group looked to find a less expensive way.

According to the report’s executive summary, “The objective of the study was to outline a complete solution to stormwater quality problems… .  The alternatives of best management practices … for control of individual pollutants (source control), and if necessary, a regional system of wetlands and infiltration facilities to provide final treatment and groundwater replenishment were chosen.”

The group estimated the cost for this multi-pronged approach at between $3 and $7 billion. However, noted Devinny, “this alternative will also provide new parks for recreation, improved wildlife habitat, and of particular value, restoration of groundwater resources, improved property values, and preservation of near shore ocean ecosystems.” He said the group estimated the value of these benefits at $5.6 to $18 billion.

Joe Devinny
Devinny is a member of the USC Center for Sustainable Cities, which published the report. Directed by Jennifer Wolch of the College department of geography, USC CSC includes faculty from engineering, the natural and social sciences, urban planning, and environmental health sciences, receives funding from the National Science Foundation, and is “ based on the conviction that resolution of environmental problems demands contributions from professionals trained in a variety of knowledge fields, holding diverse backgrounds, political perspectives, and environmental philosophies, who must be able to work productively with multiple stakeholder groups.”

The Center’s work uses the Los Angeles metropolitan area as its geographical focus, and is now working on the Green Visions project, which is an effort to develop a regional plan for the greater Los Angeles Area that will develop recreational parks, wildlife habitat, and stormwater infiltration multiple use facilities.  The web site for the project is http://www.greenvisionsplan.net/