Situation Murky While DWP Replaces Main : Chatsworth’s Water Woes to Linger Awhile

Times Staff Writer

Lorraine Strieby found herself with a problem when she awoke on a recent Saturday. The 47-year-old portrait painter had overnight guests at her Chatsworth home, 19 in all, including 13 girls attending a slumber party in celebration of her daughter’s 12th birthday.

The trouble was that there was no running water.

“It was dry, bone dry and everyone was asking, ‘Where’s the coffee?’ ” Strieby said. “We couldn’t take showers, couldn’t use the bathroom, couldn’t do anything.”

Problems Recur


In fact, none of the homes in the 21000 block of San Jose Street had water until about 10:30 a.m. that Saturday, when the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power got around to opening some valves. Even then, the water was brown for the first few hours. And the problems came back on two other days with no guarantee that the water would flow normally after that.

Although not all homes in Chatsworth will be as severely affected as those on Strieby’s block, DWP officials are warning that, for the next few weeks, residents and businesses in the two blocks from Devonshire Street north to San Jose Street and from Corbin Avenue east to Topanga Canyon Boulevard can expect low water pressure, discolored water, and in some cases no water at all for brief periods, said Robert Forsyth, DWP’s assistant district superintendent.

“We know about the trouble on San Jose Street and we’re doing what we can,” Forsyth said. “Everyone’s going to have to bear with us.”

Main Being Replaced


The difficulties stem from the replacement of part of the water main, a trouble-prone, 69-year-old, riveted steel pipe that serves the West San Fernando Valley. A new, 54-inch, cement-coated pipe is being laid in its place for about 3,400 feet down the middle of De Soto Avenue between Devonshire Street and Chatsworth Street.

Water for the area, which generally comes straight into the main out of a small reservoir south of the Simi Valley Freeway, is being diverted and has to make an uphill climb through smaller pipes around Granada Hills before it returns to Chatsworth, DWP engineer John Jarf said.

The smaller pipes were pressed to deliver a large supply of water and the increased use caused pressure to fluctuate, stirring up sediment on the bottom of the pipes, Jarf said.

Although work crews began digging up the old main in February, trouble began several weeks ago because of the demand created by warm weather, Forsyth said. There were not many complaints until a warm weekend caused water use to hit a seasonal high of 413 cubic feet a second, Jarf said.


Residents complained of rust-colored water and water-pressure levels that prevented them, for instance, from watering their lawns while running washing machines, Jarf said.

Merchants also complained.

Carwash Problems

Roy Cacal, who owns a carwash at the corner of Devonshire Street and Mason Avenue, said the water pressure was so low that he could not wash cars properly.


“The customers complained that the cars weren’t getting clean enough,” Cacal said. “It got so bad that we called a plumber. The pressure was just up and down, up and down.”

The DWP said the flow of water will be back to normal in two or three weeks, when the new water main is in place.

Until then, residents and merchants will have to learn to live with low pressure, officials said.

During a major fire, however, the combination of low pressure and immediate need for water could halt the flow to homes as firefighters extinguish the blaze, they said.


“That’s called sucking it dry,” Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Garry Svider said.