Thursday, March 8 at the Headworks was the official beginning of a new chapter in the life of the Los Angeles water system, and for the Silver Lake Reservoirs. For the last few years, site preparation has been underway at the massive construction site on the North side of Griffith Park adjacent to the Los Angeles River, with extensive excavation and cleanup of contaminated soils.
This project will replace the water storage of the Silver Lake Reservoirs, as EPA regulations have restricted open reservoirs in municipal water supplies. Initially, DWP planned on massive covers and industrial-scale filtration plants at the Reservoirs, but Headworks offered a solution that has saved them as open. That solution also opened the way for the popular Silver Lake Walk/Run Path and the highly successful Silver Lake Meadow, opened almost one year ago.
On Thursday, Los Angeles City Councilmember Tom LaBonge, with representatives from the DWP and the Silver Lake Reservoirs Conservancy, celebrated the new era in LA’s water system. Once completed, the Headworks facility will be covered with wetlands to help clean the Los Angeles River, and with recreational paths.
The site has a fascinating history of its own. The name Headworks comes from its original function as the source of wells that were LA’s water supply, a century ago when the city was so much smaller. Controversy loomed when Forest Lawn was able to acquire the land above, as fears of leaching fluids from buried bodies brought about a holding pond. For a time, water from the LA River was also diverted into the site to help recharge the water table.
So what will be the future for the Reservoirs, once Headworks is completed? That’s what the Silver Lake Reservoirs Conservancy will be working to create. How can the already successful additions to the community’s public space be enhanced and improved? In this century, water awareness will be the major environmental issue facing communities and conservation organizations — more than ever, as climate change causes dramatic shifts in that essential ingredient for life.
To solve this puzzle, we will need to look at watersheds as whole systems. That’s where a future that serves both community and environmental needs will be found. The Los Angeles River is already experiencing a profound restoration, and many bodies of water in our region will have a role in that effort. And thanks to the creation of the Headworks project and visionary thinking of many community leaders, the Silver Lake Reservoirs can find their new future.