LOS ANGELES — Water began flowing Tuesday into the Silver Lake Reservoir, two years after the scenic urban pond was drained and a month earlier than expected thanks to drought-busting storms.
Members of the Los Angeles City Council and Department of Water and Power officials were on hand as a valve was opened to start the process of refilling Ivanhoe Reservoir, a smaller pond that is separated by a spillway from the larger Silver Lake Reservoir.
"Here it is again — enjoy it forever," Richard Harasick of the Department of Water and Power said before officials walked out onto a gangway and cranked a handle that permitted the water to flow, first in a trickle and then a gush.
The 96-acre complex once held drinking water and was a landmark in the arty, upscale neighborhood set on hills north of downtown in one of the older areas of the city.
After a cancer-causing chemical, bromate, was found in the reservoirs in 2007, authorities drained and refilled them, then placed some 400,000 floating plastic "shade balls" in the Ivanhoe Reservoir to block sunlight that produced the chemical from the bromide and chlorine in the water.
The complex, which held enough water to supply more than 500,000 homes, was drained in 2015 for construction to divert the water to a new covered reservoir that complies with updated state and federal storage regulations.
The reservoir, a popular spot for joggers and dog-walkers, is being kept as a scenic and recreational destination.
Some longtime residents would like to see the area turned into a wildlife sanctuary.
"We're very excited to have this back," said Anne-Marie Johnson, co-chairperson of the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council.
"Over 140 species of birds have been sighted here. It's on the (migration) path from Alaska to Patagonia," said Jerome Courshon vice chairman of the council.
Authorities had planned to begin refilling the reservoirs next month, using local water supplies. It would have taken an estimated 12 months to restore the Silver Lake Reservoir to its historic level of 440 feet.
But winter and spring storms that ended California's five-year drought pumped up the Sierra Nevada snowpack, providing abundant water from runoff.
That water will refill the Ivanhoe Reservoir and then begin spilling into the Silver Lake Reservoir in about two weeks, authorities said.
Within two months, the neighborhood will once again see blue water instead of dirty concrete.