Construction of a pipeline to irrigate the grass at Forest Lawn with treated sewage has been delayed for a year so Los Angeles can join the project as part of its own water-saving effort.
The $1.5-million Glendale pipeline project, which was approved in 1989, was scheduled for completion this month. But Los Angeles asked Glendale to double the pipeline's capacity as part of a long-range plan to use waste water at Elysian Park.
The change required negotiations between the two cities and revision of the pipeline design, which was 90% done, said Mike Hopkins, Glendale's public service director. Los Angeles agreed to contribute $1 million.
Mindful of the drought, some Glendale officials are upset by the delay. It is particularly annoying, they say, because the reclaimed water is produced at a treatment plant half-owned by Glendale.
The output from the Los Angeles-Glendale Water Reclamation Plant, on Colorado Street west of the Golden State Freeway, is not suitable for drinking. It can be used to cool industrial equipment and irrigate parks. Yet more than 18 million gallons a day goes down the Los Angeles River into the ocean.
"I am very distressed that we have not made more progress," Glendale Councilman Jerold Milner said. "The potential for using all the reclaimed water we have is there. Every day that goes by, we're missing the boat."
Los Angeles officials said the Glendale project caught them off guard. "Glendale had made quite a bit of progress before we realized where they were at," said Steve Ott, water-reclamation coordinator for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. "There's always a lot of talk about projects. We didn't realize how serious Glendale was about this one."
Forest Lawn buys almost 100 million gallons of tap water a year to irrigate 211 acres of landscaped terrain. To encourage large users to switch, Glendale will sell reclaimed water for 25% less than tap water.
The city also hopes to build a second pipeline to carry reclaimed water to Verdugo Park, Glendale Community College and Oakmont Country Club. That $6-million project is awaiting approval of a state loan subsidy, and completion may be four years away, officials said. The city is considering a third line to irrigate Brand Park.
Recycling proponents note that every gallon of reclaimed water put to use adds a gallon to the drinking water supply. Some experts think wider use of recycled water is inevitable.
"I think there's a tremendously increased interest in it, mainly because reclaimed water is not subject to drought," said Jeanne-Marie Bruno, reclaimed-water manager for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. "There's always going to be waste water."
The district imports water from the Colorado River and Northern California but says these sources are insufficient. To stretch supplies, it has approved subsidies for 20 reclaimed-water projects, including Glendale's.
Bruno said the demand for reclaimed water is strong, "but you have to get it to where it's needed. The hang-up is that you need a dual-distribution system, and that's very expensive to put in."
"Health regulations prohibit the mingling of reclaimed water with fresh water," district spokesman Bob Gompers said. "So you have to have a completely separate plumbing system. And you have to lay pipelines under the city streets to get it there."
Bahman Sheikh, director of the Los Angeles office of water reclamation, said that until recently he was "talking to stone walls" in the city, which uses less than 1% of the water reclaimed at its four sewage plants.
But in June the Los Angeles City Council adopted a 20-year goal of using 40% of the water.
Long-range plans envision a network of pipelines taking reclaimed water to big users.
Water from the Los Angeles-Glendale plant would run from Forest Lawn to Elysian Park by 1995, then to an industrial area and, by 2010, to downtown, where air-conditioning systems use 5 million gallons of drinking water a day.
The whole network could cost $500 million. Sheikh likes to describe the expense as "about the cost of one B-2 bomber."
Even the relatively modest Forest Lawn project has led to significant costs for two cities and the cemetery. The two miles of pipeline will bring the water only to the cemetery's doorstep. Forest Lawn is spending about $250,000 on plumbing, a cost to be partly offset by the water-bill discount.
The recycled water eventually will replace the supplies Forest Lawn now draws from wells. The pact with Glendale assures the cemetery of up to 200 million gallons a year for 20 years.
Jack Clough, Forest Lawn's vice president of architecture and engineering, said his firm was wise to lock up the rights now.
"The time is going to come, I'm afraid, when it's going to be difficult to find even reclaimed water," he said.
Before approving the agreement, Forest Lawn tested reclaimed water to be sure it would not harm landscaping or monuments. Then it designed a second plumbing system for reclaimed water.