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Oasis Not Making Anyone Thirsty

DWP: Agency's lush Japanese Garden in Van Nuys draws admirers, but few would care to tap into its source.

April 30, 2002|MASSIE RITSCH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

For 18 years, Los Angeles' Japanese Garden has serenely coexisted next to a city water reclamation plant, "an oasis in the San Fernando Valley" designed to make the idea of recycled water more palatable to the public.

But for all its gurgling streams, lush lawns, bonsai and carp, the garden has failed to convince many about drinking water flushed from its toilets.

"I wouldn't drink it. ... Just knowing it came from the toilet or the ocean doesn't appeal to me," said Effie Nathan of Northridge, who visited the Van Nuys garden Sunday for its annual springtime event.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has put off any "toilet-to-tap" program in favor of more public education on the idea, said Gene Greene, manager of the Japanese Garden. The fact is, purifying sewer water for drinking disgusts a lot of people, even though, Greene said, "there's no new water in the world. It's all recycled."

FOR THE RECORD
Los Angeles Times Friday May 10, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 A2 Desk 2 inches; 41 words Type of Material: Correction
Japanese Garden-A headline and caption on an April 30 article in the California section about the Japanese Garden in Van Nuys incorrectly stated that the garden and adjacent sewage plant are managed by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power instead of the Department of Public Works.

The Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant treats waste water from toilets, sinks and showers--65 million gallons daily--for irrigation on city-owned land, mostly in the Valley.

Tillman, a city engineer, came up with the idea for the Japanese garden at the plant while taking a landscape design class at UCLA, Greene said. The instructor, Koichi Kawana, became the garden's designer.

Spread over 61/2 acres, the garden is a popular spot for filming, weddings and school field trips. Only planes from nearby Van Nuys Airport disrupt the quiet.

Sunday's event, organized by the garden's volunteer docents, included demonstrations of origami, brush-painting, flower-arranging, tai chi and sword fighting. Several hundred people toured the garden and the adjacent sewage plant.

Members of a Pasadena photography club, the Photochromers, shot pictures for an upcoming contest. Member Kathy Moyd said she would be inclined to drink reclaimed water, assuming it would be tested even more stringently than other drinking water. However, she still needs some convincing.

"I guess if we get all our elected officials together, slugging it down, maybe it would work," she said.

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