By Alba Ibarra

Since 2010, the Department of Parks and Recreation has implemented various water and energy conservation measures designed to help the environment and improve efficiency. Many of our facilities are now drought resilient, reducing taxpayer money in the form of utility costs and helping our state to reach its environmental goals.

To date, more than 35 individual energy saving projects have been completed by the Department, saving taxpayers $280,000 in annual costs, along with 1.85 million kWh of electricity that’s saved annually. This was done, among others, through the installation of interior and exterior lighting fixtures and occupancy sensors. Our efforts have helped us reduce approximately 1,280 metric tons in atmospheric carbon emissions.

When it comes to water conservation, our Department has installed 308 smart controllers and flow sensors that help reduce water used for irrigation by automatically measuring local weather conditions. The smart controller technology identifies leaks, increases in water pressure, and prevents overwatering of irrigated areas.

Smart controllers have significantly reduced water waste at our parks. The Department has also installed 19 variable frequency drives that automatically adjust pump motor speeds to conserve water and energy at County public pools.

We’re also committed to reducing the overall percentage of ornamental turf by converting it to drought tolerant projects, including the replacement of turf with decomposed granite or other sustainable materials.

With recycled water projects at 22 parks and golf courses, the Department is taking a leadership role by irrigating turf with water that’s not suitable for drinking, but is safe and nourishing for plants. The savings are significant: At Whittier Narrows Recreation Area in South El Monte alone, the project supplies more than 300 million of gallons of recycled water each year.

The Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden in Arcadia has also undergone irrigation improvements that have reduced water consumption and associated maintenance hours, including replacing more than 300 water flush urinals with waterless urinals.

Currently, the Department is developing the Model Green Park Project at Eugene A. Obregon Park in East Los Angeles. This includes upgrading the park with sustainable features such as bio-retention areas and vegetative swales, permeable paving, water efficient irrigation system upgrades, drought tolerant planting, a new demonstration garden, rain barrels, and educational interpretive signage.

This project will reduce water consumption by utilizing drought tolerant plants and efficient irrigation. Once completed, the project will also increase water supplies by installing permeable paving at the parking lots, bio-retention areas and vegetated swales to infiltrate storm water, as well as recharge local groundwater supply. Eugene A. Obregon Park will serve as a sustainability model for other existing parks.

Our Department is committed to continuing to save water and energy to better protect our environment!