The water main break that flooded Nowita Place in 2013 wasn't the kind of spectacle that brought TV cameras. Water sprayed a foot in the air through a hole in the buckled asphalt, leaving residents in the Venice neighborhood without water service for hours.
But the break fit an increasingly common pattern for L.A.'s aging waterworks: The pipe was more than 80 years old. It was rusted out. And it was buried in corrosive soil.
About one-fifth of the city's water pipes were installed before 1931 and nearly all will reach the end of their useful lives in the next 15 years. They are responsible for close to half of all water main leaks, and replacing them is a looming, $1-billion problem for the city.