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At a groundwater cleanup facility in Los Angeles, water will pass through tanks that remove any remaining hydrogen peroxide, producing water that is safe to drink.

At a groundwater cleanup facility in Los Angeles, water will pass through tanks that remove any remaining hydrogen peroxide, producing water that is safe to drink.

Photographer: Kyle Grillot/Bloomberg

Los Angeles Is Building a Future Where Water Won’t Run Out

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti’s plan to boost the city’s drought resiliency includes investment in water treatment and recycling facilities. In the era of mega-drought, will it be enough?

A helicopter whisks off a rooftop in downtown Los Angeles, climbs above a thin layer of haze and soars over barren mountains past the city’s edge. Soon, scars of climatic stress are evident to L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and Martin Adams, general manager and chief engineer of the city’s water and power department, as they peer out the windows. Trees torched years ago by wildfire. Flats parched by sun and little precipitation.

It’s another July scorcher, days after California Governor Gavin Newsom asked residents to conserve amid one of the worst droughts on record. The crisis spans across the southwestern U.S. Outside Las Vegas, the enormous Lake Mead reservoir that feeds the Golden State as well as Nevada and Arizona plunged in June to its lowest level since 1937. In August, federal officials ordered the first-ever water cuts on a Colorado River system that sustains about 40 million people. Even after pounding holiday storms, 64% of the land in Western states was still experiencing severe to exceptional drought in January, which is on track to be the driest on record in some parts.