Wednesday, November 15, 2006

No Desert After All

Ever wondered why there are so many dips in the roads of Los Angeles? They were most likely streambeds once. "It might strike you that everything you’ve been taught about the climate of Los Angeles is wrong. We do not live in a desert, after all. We have water. We just covered it up," writes Judith Lewis in her excellent article for the LAWeekly, The Lost Streams of Los Angeles. Why? Los Angeles used to be a land of catastrophic floods:
"Back when the Los Angeles River was lined with willows, Watts and Compton were marshland and Inglewood was 'coastal prairie', homes, farms and even people were regularly lost to the water. One of the most devastating was the big flood of 1938, after which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stepped in to turn the Los Angeles River into the concrete channel it is today."
The problem: covering up the streams prevents their natural cleansing before they reach the ocean, hence the pollution caused by urban runoff. The article reviews the various options discussed to curb this disaster. One solution proposed is to "retrofit" the city, and let streams flow again. Most unlikely, but thought-provoking.
A fascinating read for those interested in the subject. I certainly am: the picture above shows the junk brought back by the ocean yesterday morning. I skipped my daily swim. [related]
illustration LAWeeky & photos LA Frog

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