Miguel Luna, director of a grassroots environmental organization called Urban Semillas, wants to raise awareness about water: how we use it, how we can conserve and recycle it, and where we get it from. Why? He tells us that, according to the United Nations, in just 15 years two-thirds of the world’s population will face water shortages if we continue on the same path we’re on.

As part of an educational effort, Laguna’s group held a water march on March 22 to raise public awareness of this mounting crisis. Despite a light rain, about 1,500 people marched the three miles from the LA State Historic Park near Union Station to the Rio de Los Angeles State Park. The distance was a symbolic reminder that millions of people in other countries walk a total of three miles every day to fetch household water and bring it home.

“We need to do more locally to harvest water, including rain,” explains Luna. He points out that because so much of LA County is paved, most of the runoff and rainwater simply flows down the storm channels to the ocean.

Luna and Urban Semillas advocate using more surfaces that allow rainwater to percolate into the local water tables where it can be pumped out later. “The more water we can capture locally, the less we need to import from afar,” says Luna. He points out that the majority of LA’s water is imported from Northern California (with a large portion passing through the Sacramento Delta) with 20 percent coming from the Colorado River.

Only 15 percent of our water comes from local sources, but Luna believes we can significantly increase that proportion by a combination of strategies, including permeable surfaces (streets, driveways, and the bed of the LA River), planting drought-tolerant gardens, recycling, conservation and rain-collection systems.

“Think about when it rains here,” says Luna, “and all that water is just flowing out into the ocean. The Los Angeles area could be far more sustainable. We should be capturing as much rainwater as possible. The rain should be allowed to soak into the local terrain, and every house should have cisterns and drums for capturing rainwater.”

Luna points out that some homeowners are already installing their own systems for capturing rainwater for garden irrigation.

“We are fortunate here because the folks at the Metropolitan Water District and LA DWP are taking the leadership on this and working on educational efforts to promote water conservation and recycling,” says Luna.

For more information, contact Urban Semillas through Miguel A.Luna at miguel@urbansemillas.org.