UCLA Flood: A Real Life of Example of What Happens When We Ignore Our Infrastructure

Posted by elizabethbb on 07/30/2014

 

Update: Officials have revised their estimate of water lost in the UCLA flood to 20 million gallons.

You don’t typically hear about flooding in Los Angeles, especially as the city is in the midst of a serious drought. But on Tuesday afternoon, much of the city’s west side found itself under water — including famed Sunset Boulevard and major portions of the UCLA campus — after a 90-year-old water main burst, spilling 8 million 20 million gallons of water onto the streets.

As a proud graduate of the University of Southern California, I typically don’t have much sympathy for my foes over in Westwood. But college rivalries aside, the UCLA flood is a real world example of what happens — and what will continue to happen — if we don’t seriously invest in rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure.

The Los Angeles Times noted that the UCLA flood is just the latest in a series of infrastructure woes for the city’s Department of Water and Power (DWP):

The failure of the aging, steel-riveted water main was another black eye for the DWP. Five years ago, the city suffered a plague of 101 major breaks in the summer and fall, as water repeatedly burst through the aging network of corroded old cast-iron pipes.

When the pipe burst on Tuesday, water soared 30 feet into the air, opening up a 15-foot hole on the street. People were left stranded in their cars and on the roofs of parking garages. Many of UCLA’s athletic facilities were flooded, including recently renovated Pauley Pavilion, home to the school’s perennially overrated basketball team (OK, couldn’t help but sneak that joke in).

Thankfully, no injuries were reported. But 8 million 20 million gallons of water were lost at a time when much of the west is in a drought, one so bad that Los Angeles residents face $500 fines for water overuse.

The city didn’t have a drop of water to spare. It just lost 20 million gallons. Think about that.

We often talk about infrastructure in a policy-minded fashion, noting that infrastructure investment will create millions of jobs across the country and provide a major boost to our economy.

But investing in infrastructure also is something we simply can no longer put off, and what happened in the City of Angels Tuesday shows us why. We’ll see many more UCLA floods — and far-worse incidents — if we don’t get serious about rebuilding our water mains, our ports, our railroads, and our 70,000 structurally unsound roads and bridges.

Things could will get worse if we don’t get to work soon.

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