Chat & Selfie: DWP official on rate hikes, ‘Chinatown’ and toilet water

On another day with too little water in California, Marty Adams, senior assistant general manager with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, and the California section’s Matt Stevens sat in the cafeteria at DWP headquarters and discussed Adams’ decades helping to design and operate the Gordian knot of pipes that pump 500 million gallons of water a day beneath the city. We later emailed him questions and crunched the conversation into this:

You see a guy hosing down his sidewalk. Does the DWP handbook require you to: A) chop the hose into Dodger-dog-size pieces, or B) use it to hog-tie the guy until SWAT arrives?

Hog tying requires practice, and leaving the hose intact would allow it to still be used for watering the lawn —which, believe it or not, usually ends up being a lot less water than when you use sprinklers. So the hose isn’t the problem — it’s operator error!


L.A.'s most piggish water behavior?

The thing that makes me the most insane is repeatedly seeing sprinklers running in the rain. I just do not understand how anyone can be so disengaged from their own property.

Do you worry that gophers won’t have a hobby if we tear up all L.A.'s lawns?

Well, I would hate to see what Dodger Stadium would look like! And there could be a lot of hungry feral cats.

Water parks — pro or con?

You know, water is often what makes life good — swimming, boating, playing. At water parks, you are really only losing evaporation, and I would argue that the water lost at a water park or from a lawn at a public park does a lot more good than water lost from a view lawn that no one uses. And trust me — businesses that rely on buying water are some of the most frugal customers.

When you pull up to one of those spectacular water main breaks, isn’t your first thought: “Wow, that’s a lot cooler than the Bellagio’s fountains.”

My first thought is usually “I forgot my camera!!” You get to see things that are simply amazing, not necessarily good, but sights you will never forget. Cold water “boiling” from a 60-inch break several years ago can’t even be described.

How often do you have your staff over for “Chinatown” movie night?

Our chief water attorney and I have actually been planning to do this. So much intrigue … it makes me think I should have been more devious — and bought property!

DWP has been embroiled in a billing scandal, a former employee is accused of misappropriating more than $4 million and an audit suggests that two nonprofits created by the DWP misused and mismanaged thousands if not millions of ratepayer dollars. Sounds like a good time to ask for a rate increase, eh?

There’s never a good time to ask for a rate increase, and we have been pretty good at holding out as long as possible. But we are fixing all those other issues, tackling the challenges head on, and the department will be better off for it. I always remind folks that for all the “bad news” you hear, our rates are still lower than most everyone else. That means we really are doing a lot of things right.

Would you drink recycled toilet water?

Absolutely. Already have, right out of the advanced treatment plant. The funny part is that everyone has … there has not been a new drop of water on Earth since what, Day 1? I bet I even drank some water that Cleopatra floated down the Nile on!

What’s the best spot in Southern California to have an epiphany about the importance of water to our lives?

Take a short hike in Griffith Park or drop in to fish at Castaic Lake. You can see firsthand what water shortage and its effects look like. If neither of these make you concerned enough to feel like you need to do your part, then the record snows of Boston are calling you!

Chat & Selfie: More interviews with Angelenos from all walks of life