2023 Water Quality Successes: River Report Card Upgrade and Summer Stream Team

As we head into a new year, we’re reflecting on the debut of our upgraded River Report Card (RRC) with an intuitive letter grading system, and celebrating the achievements of our 2023 Summer Stream Team. These two programs are at the forefront of our efforts to keep LA’s waters safe and enjoyable for all.

A Fresh Look for RRC

Gone are the days of the color-coded rating system; welcome to the era of letter grades (A, B, C, D, and F) in the River Report Card! This change mirrors our successful Beach Report Card (BRC) format, offering a clear and consistent way to understand water quality risks based on the latest science and water quality regulations. It’s more than just a visual upgrade­­–– it’s about making health risks in our rivers and streams more accessible and understandable to the public.

The Summer Stream Team: Our Water Quality Champions

Every summer, we hire a group of passionate students to monitor, analyze, and report on the water quality of our local rivers from Malibu Creek State Park to the Upper and Lower Los Angeles River. This year, our team of 12 college students from Los Angeles Trade Technical College (LATTC), California State University Long Beach (CSULB) and LA (CSULA), and Long Beach City College (LBCC) embarked on a 15-week mission, bringing new insights and enthusiasm to the task.

Voices from the Field

Our Stream Team members share their experiences, offering a glimpse into the world of environmental stewardship.

Leslie Ma, CSULB: “Some things I learned from the sampling season included field experience, water quality analysis, and data management. The most interesting finding was how vital the LA River is to the neighboring communities and the many animals that depend on the water.”

Ellie Garcia, LATTC: “The most interesting finding during the season was learning about the variation in bacteria depending on the site and location and how the results from our sampling season could make such an impactful discovery.”

David Martinez, LATTC: “The most interesting finding is that even though a site might look clean that might not be the case, so it is important to check the RRC before visiting a freshwater recreational site.”

Alejandra Miranda and Amy Flores from CSULA test water at the Heal the Bay lab (left), Thais Arata from CSULA collects a water sample from Las Virgenes Creek in Malibu Creek State Park (right)

Stream Team Favorites

Our Summer Stream Team members share their favorite aspects and locations along the LA River. Their responses highlight the diversity and beauty of the river’s ecosystems:

Ellie Garcia, LATTC: “My favorite part of the LA River was the Upper Elysian Valley Recreation Zone site because of the animals it attracts, especially the birds, which we can document as part of our field data information.”

David Martinez, LATTC: “The LA River at Benedict St. in Frogtown was my favorite as it has a beautiful insight and was the cleanest.”

Blaire Edwards, LATTC: “My favorite thing about the LA River is that it is so long and flows south and east through various cities in LA County, bringing so many people and animal life together.”

Vina Matias, John Hauser and Gisselle Ponce from LBCC sample water at Riverfront Park in Maywood, CA

Envisioning the Future of the LA River

When asked about their ideal vision for the LA River, our team’s responses painted pictures of hope and rejuvenation:

Leslie Ma, CSULB: “The ideal conditions for the LA River would be a steady flow within the water confluence. Birds should fly around to feed, and I would expect the water to be transparent and clean since it flows directly to our oceans.”

Blaire Edwards, LATTC: “The ideal conditions will be that the LA River undergoes a giant project to clean up the trash that has become stuck in the islands in the river and permanently close all storm drains that dump into the river and just let the river grow naturally. Hopefully, more wildlife can thrive like the native fish species like trout and turtles.”

Examples of poor water conditions (left and right), vegetation and concrete of the LA River (center)

Another Successful Stream Team Season

The upgraded RRC and our Summer Stream Team’s dedicated efforts represent Heal the Bay’s ongoing commitment to community health and environmental stewardship. These efforts not only make our water quality data more accessible but also empower the next generation of environmental advocates and leaders. Thank you again to our brilliant student team: Zaria Alam, Leslie Ma, Gisselle Ponce, John Rae Hauser, Vina Rose Matias, Alejandra Miranda, Thais Arata, Amy Flores, Sun Chowdhury, Eliana Garcia, David Martinez Ramirez, Lyanne Fernandez, and Blaire Edwards.

We invite you to check out the new River Report Card at healthebay.org/riverreportcard and join us in celebrating the incredible work of our Summer Stream Team. Although the River Report Card is only updated during the summer, checking it now provides information on previous water quality grades and why it is essential to understand the health of our freshwater ecosystems. New information will become available in June 2024, so stay tuned!

Together, let’s continue to make informed decisions for safe water recreation and protect the health of our beloved waterways.

Members of the Stream Team at Malibu Creek: Alejandra Miranda, Thais Arata, Amy Flores from CSULA, and Blaire Edwards from LATTC.