"I was always aware of LADWP, but now I see LADWP structures as sort of mile markers of my life. I now realize that I grew up adjacent to Receiving Station D, attended college near Distributing Station 145, before ultimately settling near Distributing Station 55."
January 30th, 2012

Jordan Jarrett Civil Engineer

Jordan Jarrett is a civil engineer with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. That's a lot of water and power, of course, and it's due to the hard work of folks like Jordan that the desert city has become an oasis for something like four million people. Below, he gives us a little hint how that's all possible.

Why doesn’t LA have a private power utility like, say, San Francisco or New York?

How a city comes to be supplied by a municipal utility is a long, complicated issue, and I won’t claim to know all the answers. Individual cities must decide whether they have the knowledge and resources to run such an entity. If they do not presently run one, I imagine the costs and learning curve is too steep to start a new one from scratch. Several Southern Californian cities including Los Angeles, Burbank, and Glendale have power supplied by public municipalities, and as the country’s largest municipal utility, LADWP supplies water and power to over four million residents in a service area measuring approximately 465 square miles.

Wow, that’s huge! How does LADWP service a city that essentially won’t stop growing?

To reliably service such a large area, the department is dependent on a diverse array of employees. Engineers, construction workers and field personnel are all vertically integrated into LADWP’s infrastructure.

And what’s your role in that infrastructure?

I am one of a handful of civil engineers working in the Power System. The staff is small, so my responsibilities are pretty diverse. One day I can help select the location of a future facility, while the next I provide recommendations to alleviate erosion for a remote road in central California. Other days I might verify that a station is compliant with the latest environmental regulations, or draft a formal letter asking for permission to proceed with a project. In recent months, I have worked on projects that will help expand LADWP’s capacity to generate solar power. Unlike traditional fuels, solar power cannot be transported; therefore, one of the primary challenges is to identify optimal locations where power can be generated reliably and inexpensively.

How do you make one of the most populated, most sprawled out cities, greener?

Right now I’m working on the Adelanto Solar Power Project. Once constructed, this project, which is adjacent to an existing LADWP facility, will have the capacity to supply the City of Los Angeles with approximately ten megawatts of power. To supply power on this scale, LADWP will need to procure and install thousands of photovoltaic solar panels. This project has required a great deal of coordination between various engineering disciplines.

Speaking of, how did you get your start as an engineer? Did you ever think one day you’d be helping install solar panels for the city of LA?

I wish I could say that working for LADWP was the culmination of a master plan I developed early in my life but I cannot. Instead, it was the logical conclusion to a series of decisions I made while in my early 20s. Due primarily to my proclivity for numbers and Legos, I decided to major in Civil Engineering while at UCLA. When I graduated in 2005, the housing industry was at an all-time high, and I took a job with an engineering firm where I helped design housing complexes throughout Southern California. At the onset of the housing bubble burst in 2008, I decided to seek more stable employment, and there is not a more stable employer of civil engineers than LADWP. I was very fortunate that they was hiring, and that I could arrange an interview. To prepare, I read everything I could about LADWP, created over a hundred flash cards and participated in mock interviews whenever possible. The hard work paid off.

Did growing up in LA inform your work in any way?

I was always aware of LADWP, but now I see LADWP structures as sort of mile markers of my life. I now realize that I grew up adjacent to Receiving Station D, attended college near Distributing Station 145, before ultimately settling near Distributing Station 55.

*interview by Arden Sherman