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UCLA Water Main Flood Sips Away LA's Shrinking Drinking Supply

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In Los Angeles, where rain is scarce and conservation is sacred, the hot questions Wednesday: Where will those 20 million gushing gallons of water go next? And are they gone for good amid a record drought? Experts said a portion of the water that flooded the UCLA campus after a Tuesday pipe break would stream to the ocean through a storm-drainage system of channels and basins. But much will seep into urban soil, filling a contaminated aquifer under L.A. “One could argue that this water is essentially lost as far as the water supply goes,” said Daniel Tartakovsky, an engineering professor at the University of California, San Diego, and an expert in groundwater-surface water interaction. “The water in that aquifer is not used for water supply.” How bad is this loss for a thirsty mega-metropolis? In 2008, per-capita daily water consumption in Los Angeles County was 185 gallons. “That means,” Tartakovsky said, “that these estimated 10 million gallons of water could have supplied 54,000 people for a day.” On Wednesday, officials updated their estimate of the loss to 20 million gallons.

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