The LA River takes its iconic form from its function – channeling rainfall directly into the Pacific Ocean. An average of 14 inches of rain falls each year in LA, yet with the vast tributary area composed mostly of impervious surfaces; this seemingly small amount of rainfall often coalesces into flash floods. We propose the reintroduction of the “vernal pool”, which once made the California landscape rich with biodiversity. Arid during the dry season, the vernal pool transforms into a lush wetland, teeming with life, when it rains. Vernal pools have all but been wiped out in California by industrial-scale agriculture. Reintroducing them along the LA River corridor will create an infrastructure to contain storm water, and provide relief for many native species. This project’s success is based on 100% storm water retention, which will free up the LA River to be re-purposed for LA2O.

LA2O translates wave energy into hydraulic pressure to pump seawater into an inland desalination machine composed of an expandable system of panels that use the sun’s trapped heat to evaporate the seawater. The evaporated seawater vapor, from which the salt has been removed, rises with the warmed air until it comes in contact with the closed seawater supply lines, around which the freshwater will condense, drip into gutter channels and flow into the city’s reservoirs. One fourth of LA2O’s fresh water is gravity fed to a farm growing above the concrete bed of the LA River. The Farm component will provide access to farm fresh produce in proximity to lower and mid-income neighborhoods and will help educate visitors about water usage in food production. The proposed 8 mile length of the LA2O machine, between the Willow Street and Century Freeway overpasses, would produce roughly 65 million gallons a day, which would reduce LA’s reliance on the Los Angeles and Lake Havasu Aqueducts by 20%.

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Client: William Turnbull Drylands Design Competition
Host: The Arid Lands Institute, UCLA’s Inst. of the Environment & Sustainability (IoES)
Program: Large-scale desalination with re-purposed civic infrastructure
Area: 48 miles
Status: Concept
Awards: Professional Honor Merit Award 2012 William Turnbull Competition