Los Angeles Department

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is a water and electric utility service serving Los Angeles and outlying areas. It is the largest single utility district company in the United States and one of the largest in the world. For this very reason, it has many power plants and water treatment facilities to serve its 4.1 million customers.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) was first established in the year 1902 to provide water utilities to the people of Los Angeles, but nearly a decade later, it expanded into electricity. In addition to the city of Los Angeles, LADWP serves parts of Bishop, West Hollywood, South Pasadena, and Culver City.  The LADWP is not supported through federal taxes unlike many other utility districts. Its services are financed through its own sales of water and electricity to customers in Los Angeles.

LADWP uses a mix of several different power sources, the majority of which is coal. Its annual electric output is comprised of 44% coal, 9% nuclear energy, 14% renewable sources, 26% natural gas, and 7% large hydroelectric energy.  The company is in the process of retrofitting old parts of its grid. Since Los Angeles is a relatively old city, most power lines are built above-ground, which creates an unorganized clutter of wires across the city. LADWP hopes to complete the full conversion of above-ground wires to underground lines by the end of the decade.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power sources its annual 200 billion gallons of water from several points. In 2003, 48% of the LADWP’s water was sourced from the Sierra Nevada Mountains, which was piped through the Los Angeles Aqueduct. Another 41% comes from the combined California Aqueduct and the Colorado River Aqueduct, and 11% is tapped from local groundwater sources treated with protective chemicals. About 1% of the company’s total water was recycled water mainly used for agricultural and industrial purposes in 2003.

Recently, the LADWP was fined by the EPA for violating asbestos regulations under the Clean Air Act.  LADWP had used an asbestos-concrete mix in its piping systems and in fireproof construction in many of its power plants, and when the utility demolished some of these structures in August 2007, it did not notify the EPA first.  Disturbing asbestos-containing materials in the course of demolition can be extremely dangerous to public health, since it releases deadly asbestos fibers into the air.  For this violation, the LADWP had to pay $9,030.