Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa, JPL Director Charles Elachi and Los Angeles DWP General Manager David Nahai
Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa, JPL Director Charles Elachi and Los Angeles DWP General Manager David Nahai signed a memorandum of understanding at JPL. Image credit: NASA/JPL
PASADENA, Calif. - Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced a first-of-its-kind partnership between the City of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., and its managing institution, the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, to establish Los Angeles as a powerhouse for demonstrated energy and water innovation. This partnership will leverage JPL's intellectual assets directly to the DWP to reduce water usage and greenhouse gas emissions and, in the process, stimulate green job growth.

Mayor Villaraigosa, JPL Director Charles Elachi and Los Angeles DWP General Manager David Nahai made the announcement today at a JPL ceremony to sign the memorandum of understanding.

"The City of Los Angeles, JPL and DWP are standing at the forefront of the clean technology revolution that will drive the 21st century economy," Mayor Villaraigosa said. "This partnership will harness Los Angeles' unparalleled creative capital and entrepreneurial spirit to develop clean and green technologies that will spur job growth across the board from research, development, construction and finance."

The goal of this partnership is to provide a pipeline for innovative energy and water solutions directly to the DWP. The program serves as an international model for water and energy solutions.

The collaboration teams Caltech, one of the world's leading academic institutions of science and technology, and JPL, its operating division and a world leader in robotic space exploration, to fulfill the City of Los Angeles' commitment to future water and energy demand in a reliable, sustainable and economical way.

JPL and Caltech will apply their extensive expertise in climate change science, remote sensing, environmental engineering and systems design to assist the city and the DWP in developing, maturing and deploying innovative technologies to improve energy efficiency, increase the use of renewable energy sources, conserve water and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As the largest municipal utility in the United States, the DWP provides safe, reliable drinking water and electricity to more than 3.8 million residents and businesses, helping to sustain life, the environment and the city's economic prosperity.

"We are proud that JPL technology and expertise will be part of this collaboration to help improve energy efficiency and protect our water supply -- one of our most precious natural resources," said JPL Director Charles Elachi.

Under the terms of the three-year agreement, the participants declare their mutual intent to collaborate on developing water and energy efficiency solutions and renewable energy technologies. The participants will work with other local universities such as the University of Southern California and The University of California Los Angeles, to make energy and water technology assessments, develop models and test beds, perform technology demonstrations, and provide data on global change from Earth science satellites, airborne platforms and ground-based instruments to assist the city in making informed decisions.

"The agreement we are signing today represents a groundbreaking partnership for developing innovative energy and water solutions to the environmental challenges facing our city and our planet," said Los Angeles DWP General Manager David Nahai. "Through it we aim to develop real-world solutions based on unparalleled scientific expertise."

The region's arid climate and large population mean that any shortage in water supply can have acute effects, which can be further exacerbated by climate change. One project already being investigated under the collaboration could have immediate applications to Southern California's current critical water shortage. Much of the DWP's water supply comes from the Eastern Sierra Nevada, from Mono Lake and the Owens Valley via the California Aqueduct. The department's vast land holdings include Owens Lake, an ancient dry lakebed whose blowing dust can impact air quality for Owens Valley residents. To help reduce dust on Owens Lake, the department and its team of contractors is installing one of the world's largest shallow flooding systems, which is a computer-controlled network of sprinklers that currently covers more than 14 square miles of the ancient lakebed. But this flooding system consumes significant water-water that is consequently unavailable to help satisfy the city's residential and industrial needs.

Under the collaboration, JPL and Caltech are investigating the development of a remote sensing instrument that would measure the lakebed's surface moisture in order to precisely predict when water needs to be applied. Such an instrument would permit more efficient use of the Owens Lake sprinkler system, thereby conserving precious water resources.

This is only one example of the fruits of this collaboration; the participants have already submitted a series of joint proposals to the Department of Energy to develop and deploy advanced energy technologies. These proposals involve projects to reduce agricultural energy and water consumption; develop models for predicting the availability of solar, wind and wave energy resources; develop robust communications architectures for smart grid applications; and develop efficient technologies for pre-processing food waste used to produce biogases and renewable energy.

The agreement also calls for the DWP to construct a "Sustainable Technology Demonstration Building." This new building will showcase to the public innovative methods, products and technologies to reduce energy and water consumption and increase renewable energy.

JPL is managed for NASA by the California Institute of Technology.

News Media Contact

Media contacts: Alan Buis 818-354-0474
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Sarah Hamilton 213-978-0741
City of Los Angeles

Joe Ramallo 213-367-1394
Los Angeles Department of Water and Power