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A drought is no time for a giant water slide in Los Angeles

Giant water slide is a great idea, but not in a drought
Appearances matter. Giant water slide downtown would send the wrong message about L.A.'s conservation

Sorry to be Debbie Downer, but the plan to bring a three-block-long water slide to downtown next month is a bad idea.

The concept itself is great. Slide the City would lay down in the middle of the city a 1,000-foot-long stretch of vinyl with a pool at the end. It's like a one-day water park dropped from the sky. Pictures from Slide the City in Salt Lake City last month show lots of happy folks frolicking in the water and coasting along on inflatable pool toys.

This looks like just the kind of communal summer event that says L.A. is hip, fun city. The problem?  It's a big waste of water.

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FOR THE RECORD

Aug. 13, 5 a.m.: An earlier version of this post said the event would use as much water as was lost during the water main break near UCLA. The broken pipe wasted 20 million gallons. The water slide would use up to 20,000 gallons.

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Surely the event organizers have heard that California is in the middle of a drought so severe that state regulators recently voted to impose fines of up to $500 for water waste.

Event organizers told LAist the slide would use 15,000 to 20,000 gallons of water -- enough water to serve 162 Angelenos for one day. They also said the water would be recycled throughout the event, treated with pool chemicals and properly disposed of.

Still, it's unclear whether the city of L.A. will issue street closure permits to the organizers, considering there is already an online petition signed by 4,000 people opposing such an event during a drought.

The Department of Water and Power has also pooh-poohed the proposal and suggested organizers could be fined for wasting water.

"It sends the absolute wrong message about Los Angeles," said DWP spokesman Joe Ramallo, who wonders what people in Northern California would think if they saw pictures of Angelenos splashing in the giant slide. "That image alone would do a disservice to all the work residents of Los Angeles have done to conserve water."

And let's face it, appearances matter. California's water policies are influenced by regional politics. The perception that Southern California is the water hog that takes Northern California's natural resources — however inaccurate — matters.

Slide the City organizers should shelve the downtown proposal and show a bit more sensitivity to the drought. That doesn't necessarily mean the event should be off the table in L.A. Could they do it at the beach and use ocean water? We're in a drought, and it's time for more creative thinking.

For more opinions, follow me @kerrycavan

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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