The sweeping green acres of Forest Lawn Memorial-Park in Glendale go unadmired by the more than 270,000 "departed," the park's polite term for the dead, who rest eternally in such aptly named burial havens as "Slumberland" and "Vale of Memory."
Undoubtedly, the grassy havens are admired by the tens of thousands of people who each year visit Forest Lawn, one of the biggest and most famous cemeteries in the nation.
But visitors, like the departed, are probably unaware of how much water it takes to keep alive the cemetery's 125 acres of carefully manicured lawns, 10,000 trees and 100,000 bushes and shrubs. An estimated 195 million gallons of fresh water, purchased from the cities of Glendale and Los Angeles, is used every year to irrigate what once was a dry, weed-choked hillside.
That point, however, is not lost on conservation-minded city and park officials. Faced with the rising costs of fresh water and the possibility of water shortages in thirsty Southern California, they are considering a plan to sell Glendale's treated sewage water to the park.
The reclaimed water would be used solely for irrigation, freeing fresh water for such uses as drinking and cooking.
The city is studying the engineering costs of piping the recycled sewage water to the park from the Los Angeles-Glendale Water Reclamation Plant, which is about two miles away on the east bank of the Los Angeles River just below Colorado Street.
The plant processes about 10 million gallons of water a day from the two cities' sewer systems, most of which is then sent down the river to the Pacific Ocean.
"We are vitally interested in obtaining recycled water for all of our parks," said Bob Wheeler, vice president of Forest Lawn, which also operates memorial parks in Hollywood Hills, Cypress and Covina Hills. "We think it's an important use of that water and one that no one should have any objections to."
City Councilwoman Ginger Bremberg, the main supporter of the proposed project on the council, called the sale of reclaimed water a trade-off that would benefit thirsty city dwellers.
"I don't see any point of sending it on to the ocean," Bremberg said. "If Forest Lawn uses a million gallons of reclaimed water, then we get a million gallons of fresh water that we can use for drinking."
May Be Too Expensive
Under the plan, Glendale would pay for building and maintaining nearly two miles of water mains to carry reclaimed water to the park's boundary, along with the necessary pumping stations. Forest Lawn, in the southeast corner of Glendale near Los Feliz Boulevard and Glendale Avenue, would then be responsible for conveying the water to its irrigation system by a separate pipeline.
The study is expected to be completed next month. Preliminary findings show that the project may be too expensive, according to Norm Koontz, principal civil engineer in Glendale's water department. Based on preliminary figures from the study, Koontz estimated that the city may have to spend up to $1.5 million in capital investment on pipelines and pumping stations.
With little federal or state grant money available, the city would have to pay the major cost of construction, then pass that to Forest Lawn on its water bill, Koontz said.
Cost of Water
"The water that we could supply them from the water reclamation plant would be more expensive to deliver than using the potable water system," he said.
Glendale pays the Metropolitan Water District the wholesale price of $224 an acre foot for potable water, then charges large commercial and industrial customers such as Forest Lawn $430 an acre foot, a price that includes all overhead costs, Koontz said.
To recoup construction costs, the city might have to charge the park $530 an acre foot for the reclaimed water, which normally sells at 70% to 80% of the potable water rate, he said.
But, Koontz emphasized, the preliminary estimates could change as the study is completed. Besides, there may be ways to cut engineering costs, he said.
Earlier this month, at a Redevelopment Agency meeting, Bremberg argued for using part of the city's $650,000 in federal revenue-sharing funds to help finance construction of water mains from the reclamation plant to Forest Lawn.
At that meeting, City Council members, who constitute the Redevelopment Agency, apportioned $240,000 of that money to the Glendale Unified School District, leaving undecided how it would spend the rest.
Forest Lawn's Wheeler said the city would have to bear the entire cost of laying the pipelines to the cemetery while the park managed the "fairly serious problem" of installing a second water distribution system within its grounds. The price of the reclaimed water would have to be negotiated, he said.
The water reclamation plant, jointly owned by the two cities, sends from 5 million to 8 million gallons of treated water daily to the ocean, said Vernon Stephan, assistant plant manager. About 1 million gallons a day, after processing, is used to water two golf courses in Griffith Park, he said.
Glendale also uses about 65 million gallons of reclaimed water annually in the cooling tower of its San Fernando Road power plant. A smaller amount of reclaimed water is used to irrigate landscaped freeway slopes, and some goes back to the sewer systems.