Veteran Water Manager Deborah Smith named new Executive Officer of Los Angeles Water Board

By on March 28, 2018

With more than 30 years in the water industry, Deborah Smith has been named the new Executive Officer of Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board. She is replacing Samuel Unger upon his retirement on March 31.

Smith began her water career as a water quality regulator in Louisiana, where she conducted wetland determinations for the state Department of Transportation and Development. She later worked as an environmental scientist for the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.

Since 1989, Smith has worked in various capacities for the Los Angeles Regional Water Board. Within the Executive Office she has 20 years of service beginning as Assistant Executive Officer and later as Chief Deputy Executive Officer.

“The entire Board is very pleased with Ms. Smith’s selection,” said Los Angeles Water Board Chair Madelyn Glickfeld. “She has demonstrated strong leadership from her very first years at the Board, when she was selected to assemble and lead a team to perform a comprehensive update to the Region’s Water Quality Control Plan. That major project kicked off 29 years of success and accomplishment at the Board.”

Smith’s water career resume includes many accomplishments demonstrating her passion for protecting and improving water quality. These include:

  • In 1996, Smith was the first in the nation to recommend listing trash as a pollutant that impaired waterways, leading to the country’s first trash Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) in 1999. TMDLs now limit the amount of pollutants that can be discharged to a surface water per the federal Clean Water Act.
  • Smith worked closely with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), from 1999 to 2013, to develop a plan for and oversee the completion of all of the TMDLs in the region per a US EPA consent decree. The adoption of 47 TMDLs addressing approximately 175 waterbodies provided the framework for bringing rivers and coastal waters in the Los Angeles region back into compliance with water quality standards. Complying with the water quality standards helps to ensure that aquatic life and human uses can be fully supported for current and future generations.
  • In 2012, Smith and her team led the efforts to develop an innovative municipal stormwater permit that promotes multiple benefits. These include augmenting water supplies, greening our communities and offsetting imported water use in order to provide better habitats and healthier environments.

Additionally, Smith’s early work included addressing ammonia, trash and emerging chemicals of concern (e.g. pharmaceuticals), as well as the impacts of climate change on water quality. She has continued her work on the effects of climate change on water quality and water resources in the region, which more recently led to the development of a Climate Change Framework in 2015. This effort now serves as a model for other regions and agencies. Several other key studies are underway, one of which is examining the effects of prolonged droughts on aquatic species in our rivers.

Smith’s new role will include overseeing the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board’s staff of some 150 employees and an annual operating budget of more than $30 million. The Los Angeles Region is the state’s most densely populated and industrialized region with a population of more than 10 million people, thousands of regulated facilities, and a diversity of built and natural environments.

Smith is a graduate of Slippery Rock State College in Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in Biology. She completed her M.S. in Zoology at Louisiana State University (LSU) and conducted additional post-graduate research and studies at LSU and the University of Washington, Friday Harbor Marine Labs.