Essential California Week in Review: Putting recycled water directly in your tap

Two men in hard hats work inside an industrial plant.
Trenton Guinta, left, and Bert Mantilla Jr. work at the Water Replenishment District facility in Pico Rivera.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, July 23.

Here’s a look at the top stories of the last week

Southern California agencies look at how to put recycled water directly in your tap. It’s called “direct potable reuse,” which means putting purified recycled water straight back into our drinking water systems. This differs from indirect potable reuse, where water spends time in a substantial environmental barrier such as an underground aquifer or in a reservoir. Why? Because the science is better, and the drought is much worse. Water recycling experts prefer you not call it “toilet to tap.”

The head of California’s scandal-plagued National Guard will retire at the end of the month. Maj. Gen. David Baldwin’s departure comes on the heels of a Times investigation that last month detailed the most recent run of embarrassing episodes for the Guard, including allegations in the officer ranks of abuse of authority, homophobia, antisemitism and racism.

L.A. County residents, see how your neighborhood voted for sheriff. An election map shows the deep divisions as Alex Villanueva campaigns for reelection in a November runoff.


Nurse-midwives are struggling to get training in providing abortions. California leaders have vowed to make their state a haven for abortion patients. But the limited availability of training has constrained the number of clinicians who can provide the procedure, rights advocates say. Certified nurse-midwives and other eligible health professionals say clinical training is tough to find.

Residents pan a plan to turn a shuttered Sears into a giant homeless services hub. The move would be dedicated to “saving lives,” said the activist behind the project. Told that their landmark Sears building, once the pride of the community, would house not hundreds, but thousands, of homeless people, some in Boyle Heights responded in anger: “Take that to Beverly Hills!”

Fueled by rapid reinfections, California’s soaring summer COVID-19 wave could top winter’s surge. Wastewater data show steadily increasing concentrations of coronavirus levels. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 9 in 10 of the state’s residents now live in counties with a high coronavirus community level. And indoor mask rules are expected next week as L.A. County’s coronavirus wave worsens.

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Going red to blue in California? Democrats are on the defense across the country in this year’s midterm elections but appear to believe some of their best chances for flipping GOP congressional districts are in California. Five of six candidates added to their “Red to Blue” program were in this state.

Wildfires have increased in size and severity over the last two decades, burning with such intensity in some areas of the Sierra Nevada that forests will probably be unable to regenerate on their own. For the first time, a broad consensus has emerged among scientists, legislators and many environmental groups that human intervention is required to salvage these forests, said a Sierra Nevada Conservancy official.


Crews have gained the upper hand on the Washburn fire. Two weeks after the wildfire ignited in Yosemite National Park, firefighters continued to make progress against the blaze that had scorched nearly 5,000 acres. Park officials plan to reopen the southern entrance to Yosemite along Highway 41 at 6 a.m. today.

The SoCal housing market is cooling. Home prices and sales in the region edged lower in June from the month before. It was the first month since January that Southern California’s ultra-competitive housing market saw a decline in the median home price. The region’s six-county median sale price was $750,000, down from $760,000 in May. But prices are still higher compared with last June.

1.6 million California households have enrolled in an affordable internet program. The FCC-administered program was made possible by funding from a 2021 law that the Biden administration said would overhaul America’s ailing infrastructure and boost the economy. The White House says California has the highest number of enrollees of any state.

The University of California is set to scrutinize UCLA’s Pac-12 exit and issue a public report. The office of the UC system’s president will examine the effect on student-athletes and the ripple effect on UC Berkeley and other campuses as UCLA prepares to head to the Big Ten Conference along with USC. The announcement came after Gov. Gavin Newsom demanded an explanation on the planned move.

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ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

How two L.A. COVID swindlers dodged the FBI and joined the European jet set. This wild tale follows the efforts of Richard Ayvazyan and Marietta Terabelian to evade the FBI after collecting $18 million in pandemic relief for sham businesses in the San Fernando Valley. The fraud ring included Ayvazyan’s sister-in-law Tamara Dadyan. All three fled under assumed names. Ayvazyan and Terabelian — as Roberto Niko De Leon and Nataly Rose Perez Garcia — landed in Montenegro, where they rented multiple residences, including a waterfront villa with swimming pool. They’d left behind their Tarzana mansion (bought with COVID relief funds) and their three children. Read their saga and how the FBI caught up to them.

A former bracero farmworker breaks his silence. For immigrant Mexican laborers with little or no formal education and a lack of employment opportunities in their native land, laboring in the fields of el norte offered a way out of utter deprivation. But, as Fausto Ríos says, life as a bracero meant humiliating personal inspections, DDT baths and crawling in scorching heat under the weight of a massive bag of produce. He’s speaking out now: “It has taken me time to come to the conclusion that speaking is healing.”


L.A. bought land in Watts and promised jobs; decades later, it’s weeds and shanties. The field was meant to revitalize a community bled of its economic base and traumatized by the ’92 riots. Nearly three decades of ineffectual city initiatives have left the 10 acres useful only to shanty dwellers. Now it’s being looked at for homeless housing. “More affordable housing at this location would cost this part of the city its last opportunity to have a job-generating industry,” said a city councilman. “This is a part of the city that the economy has aggressively abandoned and, frankly, practiced apartheid on.”

Today’s week-in-review newsletter was curated by Amy Hubbard. Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints and ideas to

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