LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — In a few places, California has been recycling water and wastewater for decades. However, in most areas, the practice hasn’t caught on.

At Magic Johnson Park in Los Angeles, named after the legendary basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers, sits an intricate maze of machines used to treat and recycle water. In it, workers trap stormwater that would otherwise be unused and redirect it to water the park. The process frees up other water supplies, like that of the Colorado River, for citizens to drink or shower with while Magic Johnson Park waters itself.

A complicated tangle of pipes and machinery is used to redirect would-be wasted water to replenish Magic Johnson Park.

“The water gets diverted here where it gets treated with ozone, alum, and chlorine,” explains an engineer and tour guide at the park.

The water supply is short in southern California, just like in southern Nevada, where officials say every drop sent down a drain is recycled. Many ask if those in Los Angeles reciprocate and do enough to recycle water. Matt Frary, the principal engineer for Los Angeles Public Works, said the county’s “safe, clean, water program” is a $280 million project that costs the average homeowner in the area $80 per year to fund hundreds of projects similar to the Magic Johnson Park water system.

“One park may seem like a pittance, but it’s a step in the right direction,” said Frary.

Matt Frary, the principal engineer for Los Angeles Public Works, says every small project helps in the fight to conserve water.

Another direction in the water recycling conversation is recycling wastewater. It’s a direction some Californians say they aren’t ready to go. Underneath a parking lot in downtown Santa Monica lays a $96 million first-of-its-kind recycling plant that processes all kinds of water, including municipal wastewater. The goal is to create a drought-resistant water supply for the citizens to rely on instead of Colorado River water. 

“The ‘ick factor,'” said Sunny Wang, water resources manager for Santa Monica. “It’s gone away.”

A million gallons of recycled wastewater daily may be a proverbial drop in the bucket for the drought-ridden Colorado River area.

“You look at that as a small drop in the bucket,” said Wang. “But if everybody does one, you keep adding that one up, it becomes a much larger number to help somebody.”

The concept of “toilet-to-tap” in southern California contends with the “ick factor.”

Bill Hasencamp, manager of Colorado River Resources for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, said wastewater has value. The organization provides water to 19 million southern Californians. He said southern Nevadans, who pride themselves on recycling almost 100% of their wastewater, have a leg up on California. In Los Angeles, that number is only 2%, and once southern California’s water reaches the Pacific Ocean, it’s lost.

“Unlike Las Vegas, where the wastewater flows back into Lake Mead, it’s automatically recycled,” said Hasencamp.”

Hasencamp said using the water multiple times is necessary as lakes Powell and Mead reach their lowest levels in history, adding that the situation is “really bad.”

Bill Hasencamp, manager of Colorado River Resources for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, hopes to make a “really bad” situation for the water supply in southern California better.

It’s a “really bad” situation that engineers in southern California will spend billions over the next decades on small projects like Magic Johnson Park and other large projects to improve. 

Officials from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California say it is in the early stages of creating the country’s largest single water recycling project. Although that project is ongoing, when asked if the water problem in the region will be solved in this lifetime, Jesus Gonzalez, Manager of the recycled water program at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, seemed unsure.

“Good one,” Gonzalez said.