No, LA is not a desert. Yet.

Southern California faces profound changes in climate — that could cut off Los Angeles from the water supplies that created it. To survive and thrive, they will have to use, clean and reuse the water they have locally, and be more cautious with the less-abundant water that they import.



July 9, 2021 - 12:10 PM

A boat navigates Lake Mead, where a white "bathtub ring" along the shore shows how far below capacity the nation's largest reservoir is on April 1, 2021. (Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

One of the standard tropes we hear from outsiders about Los Angeles is that it is located in a desert — a dry biome that cannot sustain our millions of people without importing water from somewhere (and someone) else.

And the standard retort from folks like us on the Los Angeles Times editorial board is that, no, it’s explicitly not a desert. To get to the desert, we have to leave town. The difference in climate, flora and terrain between L.A. and, say, Palm Springs or Las Vegas is profound. Deserts get less than 10 inches of rain a year. Las Vegas gets just over 4. Los Angeles gets nearly 15.

We’re not a desert. We have a Mediterranean climate, like, say, the South of France. That’s our story and we’re sticking to it.

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