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(dailynews.com) The $7.5 billion water bond measure approved by state legislators this past week could help pay for ambitious local projects, from cleaning the polluted San Fernando Valley groundwater basin to recycling treated sewage for drinking water.

The Los Angeles region depends largely on scarce and expensive imported water, and the bond funds could help reverse that dependence by increasing the local supply, experts say. At the same time, the money could help restore native rivers, improve water quality, capture stormwater runoff and even build some parks.

“It makes more sense to the community to increase our local self-reliance,” said Nancy Steele, executive director of the Council for Watershed Health in downtown Los Angeles. “This is a good investment by the public in our water infrastructure, and in our natural landscape.”

While the bill doesn’t earmark specific projects, it sets aside millions or billions for certain categories. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti lobbied for groundwater cleanup, water recycling and river restoration funds. Nothing in the water bond, though, would pay for replacing aging pipes like the one that ruptured and flooded UCLA last month .

Public officials and nonprofit executives are readying their plans, in case the measure passes in November.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has some of the region’s most expensive proposed projects. In the San Fernando Valley basin, the DWP plans to spend between $600 million and $900 million on groundwater treatment facilities to clean up chromium and other pollutants left by aerospace companies and others.

“Our projects are large, so they have a big price tag,” said Marty Adams, DWP deputy senior assistant general manager. “Because they’re large, they also have the broadest benefit.”

The basin accounts for more than 80 percent of the city’s local water rights, but about half of its wells are unusable because of contamination.

That one project could be large enough to suck up the entire $900 million set aside for the prevention or clean up of groundwater contamination, but the Legislature required that at least half of a given project be paid for with local funds — unless it serves low-income areas. Also, if polluters are able and willing to pay for cleanup, or the EPA has not yet identified polluters, then a project would get a lower priority. Ratepayers would have to make up the difference.

Officials at the San Gabriel Basin Water Quality Authority were rejoicing Thursday because of the groundwater funds. They have been building treatment plants to clean up toxic chemicals like perchlorate, a component of rocket fuel that can interfere with the thyroid.

“This is historic,” said Gabriel Monares, a consultant for the WQA. “This is the first time they are able to give us money to actually run our treatment plants.”

He estimates the agency needs $600 million over the next 30 years to keep treatment plants operating.

Read more here: $7.5 billion water bond could meet California’s needs during drought