When LA’s infrastructure fails, who pays?

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MixerBannerTens of millions of gallons of water poured down Sunset Boulevard and onto the UCLA campus Tuesday, the result of a rupture in a massive, high-pressure water line more than nine decades old.

Hundreds of cars that were parked in underground decks were flooded and ruined, and at least a half dozen buildings on the college campus suffered various degrees of damage.

The court inside of Pauley Pavilion, UCLA’s historic gymnasium, was another casualty. UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero said the hardwood floor would have to be completely replaced. Other athletic facilities on campus sustained minor damage.

The cause of the mess is a 93-year old water pipe that runs a few feet below Sunset. It is part of a network maintained by LA Department of Water and Power. Age appears to be the reason for the breach, and the line is one in a huge network that is getting older by the day. Which leads us to ask, what price are we willing to pay for our aging infrastructure?

UCLA and the City of LA are pointing fingers at the city-owned DWP,  a utility that’s already seen its share of public relations issues recently.

Joe Mathews is California Columnist for Zocalo Public Square, an Ideas Exchange that publishes daily, and Emily Alpert Reyes covers City Hall for the LA Times.

Both joined us for this week’s Mixer.

We don’t see all these old pipes and yet we assume they’ll continue to work – an “out of sight, out of mind” issue that makes it doubly difficult to address when an already skeptical public hears calls for tax increases or rate hikes to pay for upgrades.

No doubt the same public was upset to see 20-million gallons of water wasted in the middle of California’s ‘exceptional drought’ – though, to put that in perspective, the city uses about 550 million gallons of water per day.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on broken pipes and deferred maintenance by tweeting us at @radiochio, or email us at newscasts@kcrw.com.