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Heal the Bay Blog

Drought or flood?  Can both be true at the same time?  Yes, and here’s what you need to know with Heal the Bay CEO Tracy Quinn in Part 2 of our 3-part series, Commit to Conservation.

RECENT DRAMATIC STORMS, known as atmospheric rivers, have caused major damage including flooding, mudslides, and sinkholes.  Up in the mountains, the California snowpack is 208% of average for this date and Mammoth Mountain is having its second snowiest January on record.  We are receiving record precipitation this year which can be good for our water supply but the drought is not over.  We know it is confusing, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are 3 things you need to know about water supply in CA.

Drought & Water Supply Recovery – 3 Limiting Factors

First, we started this year with a huge water deficit. About 40% of California’s water supply comes from groundwater and we have been over pumping our groundwater supplies for decades. When we don’t get enough surface water (i.e., rain and snowmelt that flows to our streams, rivers, and lakes), water users – mostly agriculture – use even more groundwater.  And because 19 of the 20 hottest years on record have occurred since 2001, and groundwater has been largely unregulated in California, our groundwater supplies have significantly declined. In fact, in the last 100 years, California drained enough fresh water to provide every person on Earth with a 30-year supply of drinking water. According to the USGS, it would take about 50 years to naturally recharge our groundwater supplies.

As Charming Evelyn, Sierra Club Water Chair, explains above, we’ve pumped so much groundwater that the land has sunk – in some places over 28 feet. It’s a phenomenon called “subsidence.”

Second, we can’t be certain that our immense snowpack will translate to full reservoirs that will carry us through the summer and fall when we need it most. California gets about 30% of our water from the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains and our water system relies on the snow melting slowly over the spring and summer, filling reservoirs as water is discharged to meet the needs of our homes, businesses, and farms and leaving enough to get us through the fall until it rains and snows again. Unfortunately, climate change models have predicted, that we will now see early snowfall followed by unusually warm springs – in fact, this is what we saw last year. Between sublimation (snow evaporating off the mountain), overgrown forests with thirsty trees, and exceptionally dry soils, only a small fraction of our frozen reservoir (i.e., the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada and Colorado Rocky Mountains) even reached the lakes and reservoirs that supply our statewide water system. The same may happen this year.

While we watch California reservoirs rebound after 2 decades of drought, Lake Mead on the Colorado River, where SoCal gets about 30% of its water, remains critically low.  According to Brad Udall, a water and climate researcher at Colorado State University, we would need five or six years of 150% snowpack to refill Lake Mead and Lake Powell, the major reservoirs along the Colorado River.  Brad says we have to continue to plan for the worst year, and we agree! 

Third, we’re not capturing all this rain.  In the first three weeks of 2023, Los Angeles received over 8 inches of rain, which translates to about 568 billion gallons of water. Much of this water falls on impervious surfaces like roofs and streets, picks up pollutants from cars, pet waste, and trash and flows briskly to the nearest stormdrain and eventually out to the ocean. Recent investments helped us capture 33 billion gallons of this winter’s rainfall in Los Angeles County, but the majority of this precipitation is still flushing out to the ocean through stormdrains and rivers. Heal the Bay has been at the forefront, working to make sure we pursue new capture projects that offer multiple benefits through LA County’s Safe, Clean Water Program. 

👉 Get involved: Learn more about the stormwater projects featured in this post.

Managing Water Supply and Usage

Now is not the time to take our foot off the accelerator when it comes to saving water. Every drop of water we save now is a drop that will be available to us for essential uses during the dry times ahead. And remember, saving water saves energy – especially if you are reducing your use of hot water. So using less water helps save money on your utility bills and helps fight climate change!  Here are our top water saving tips you can do to create climate resilient communities. 

Source: EPA.gov

1. Install a FLUME device. Flume is a product that you can easily install on your water meter that sends water use data straight to your phone and can even alert you to a leak. According to the EPA, Americans lose 1 TRILLION gallons of water through household leaks each year. Right now, LADWP customers can get a FLUME device for just $24 (plus tax). Get personalized information on how you can save water right from an app on your phone! 

2. Transform your thirsty turf landscape into a beautiful native garden. Did you know that the number one irrigated crop in America is turf grass?  In Los Angeles, 50% to 70% of our drinking water (most of which we transport from hundreds of miles away) is used to irrigate landscapes, mostly grass that isn’t suitable for our climate. Right now LADWP customers can get up to $25,000 to remove the turf grass around their home. What can you do? Sign up for the rebate, remove your “non-functional turf” and replace it with a landscape that captures stormwater, maintains healthy soils, and is full of native plants to reduce your home’s irrigation demands:

A bioswale can capture water for home landscaping. Photo by Tracy Quinn/Heal the Bay

    • Connect your roof gutters to a rain barrel or bioswale and grade your landscape to capture the rain that falls on your property instead of letting it run into the street. This also prevents pollution like dirt and oils from cars and pet waste from reaching our rivers and beaches.
    • Maintain healthy soils because they retain more water. Healthy soils also capture and store carbon helping to mitigate the impacts of climate change.
    • Plant native plants, which, in addition to benefiting your water supply, can help maintain SoCal’s incredible biodiversity by providing food and shelter for birds, bees, and butterflies. This is especially important as our planet is currently facing a mass extinction event because human activity has reduced natural habitats. Find locally appropriate native plants here in Los Angeles at Theodore Payne Nursery.

💬 ASK THE EXPERTS: Should I replace my grass with artificial turf? Short answer – No!  Artificial turf is usually made from plastic, prevents insects from digging and aerating soils, pollutes the soils underneath it and the water that runs over it, and can contribute to extreme heat issues. For even more reasons to avoid it, check out this article

The Westwood Neighborhood Greenway is maintained by volunteers who restore native plant species near the Westwood/Rancho Park E Line station in support of local biodiversity. Photo by Bria Royal/Heal the Bay

3. Start a water-wise lifestyle trend in shared living spaces. Not a homeowner? Not a problem! Whether you’re renting an apartment or living in a student dorm, there are still plenty of daily actions we can all take to use less water. Check out more water savings tips for shared living spaces. And never underestimate the power of collective action. You can talk to your neighbors about the benefits of native landscaping, and collectively approach your landlord to request that they replace the turf in your complex. Suggestions from several tenants along with enticing rebates could sway your landlord and land you with some beautiful new outdoor vistas. 

💥#Commit2ConserveChallenge: Once you’re ready to take action, download the Dashboard.Earth app for step by step guides, links to rebated materials, and an easy-to-use checklist curated by Heal the Bay and Metropolitan Water District. With our ONE Water Pledge, you can begin tracking your progress in managing your home’s water supply and usage. Then, share your progress on social media to spread the word. 

ACTION LINK(S)

💥 GET THE APP – DASHBOARD.EARTH

HEAL THE BAY DROUGHT PORTAL

SUPPORT OUR WORK


Written by Tracy Quinn. Leading a dynamic team of scientists, policy experts, outreach specialists, educators, and advocates in pursuit of its clean water mission, Heal the Bay CEO Tracy Quinn is responsible for setting new science and policy goals, expanding Heal the Bay Aquarium as the premier marine science education destination in Southern California, and increasing community action throughout Greater LA. Tracy has dedicated her life to improving water quality in our rivers and ocean and ensuring safe, reliable, and affordable water for all Californians.



Join community scientists in California to observe and document the King Tides on January 22, 2023. This extreme high tide event provides a glimpse of what we face with climate-driven sea level rise. Your images will contribute to a better understanding of how to adapt to and combat the climate crisis. Get a glimpse of last winter’s King Tide.


UPDATED JANUARY 5, 2023

Capture the King Tide this January

King Tides are an exceptionally large wave phenomenon that can only be witnessed a few times a year. These massive waves only come to shore when the moon is closest to the Earth and can teach California so much about the changing coastline, if their impact can be captured.

Thank you to everyone who helped us document the King Tide in December.  Your images and observations will lead to a better understanding of the effects of sea level rise on California’s coast.

This January, Heal the Bay is calling on all local beach lovers to hit the sand once again to help us document these huge waves.  Taking pictures and recording this natural phenomenon can help climate scientists predict the future of Californias coastline in preparation to adapt to and combat the climate crisis. Last year your observations were vital to prepare Los Angeles for a future affected by climate change and we need your help once more.

The first King Tides event of this season will occur on January 21, 2023, at 8:10 AM, and then January 22, 2023, at 8:57 AM. Once again, we are calling all of those who love the California coast to help capture the King Tide.

Join us in January

Don’t want to face the big wave alone? Come capture the King tide with Heal the Bay and other climate community members at our either of group science events during the January phenomenon.

King Tides Science and Celebration
Santa Monica, Los Angeles County

1600 Ocean Front Walk, Santa Monica
January 22, 2023
8:15am-10:30am
Presented by Climate Action Santa Monica
Join Heal the Bay and Climate Action Santa Monica for a gathering by the ocean to witness and document this natural phenomenon.  At the precise moment of the most intense gravitational force on the ocean, help community scientists take photos of the waves and their reach, and document the impact on local infrastructure, as part of the California King Tides Project. Then head over to the Heal the Bay Aquarium for educational demonstrations to learn about the planetary forces that cause the King Tides to occur. Enjoy refreshments while you meet and mingle with other members of the climate community and learn about the effects of climate on sea levels. Come celebrate the power of the ocean and deepen your connection to nature when we Capture the King tide together.  More info and register.

 

King Tides Science and Celebration
Manhattan Beach, Los Angeles County

2 Manhattan Beach Blvd, Manhattan Beach, Ca 90266 – Base of Manhattan Beach Pier (by the bike path/clock tower area)
January 22, 2023
8:30 am -9:15 am
Presented by The Roundhouse Aquarium
Head to The Roundhouse Aquarium Teaching Center for a King Tides community science event with Heal the Bay. Hit the beach and help document the King Tide by capturing pictures of this ocean phenomenon alongside community and climate scientists as part of the California King Tides Project.  Join in the community discussion and discover the relationship between sea level rise and climate change alongside students and other climate community members.

 

PUBLISHED DECEMBER 13, 2021

Sea Level Rise

Before we get into the details of this year’s King Tides event, let’s begin with the larger context of sea level rise. Humans are polluting Earth’s atmosphere with greenhouse gases (GHGs) like CO2, primarily through the burning of fossil fuels, driving average global temperatures up at an unprecedented rate.

Oceans have helped to buffer this steady pollution stream by absorbing 90% of our excess heat and 25% of our CO2 emissions. This, among myriad impacts, has increased sea temperatures, causing ocean water to expand. The combination of ocean water expansion and new water input from the melting of landlocked glaciers results in rapid sea level rise.

Take a look at images from the NOAA Sea Level Rise Viewer. Light blue shows areas expected to flood consistently as sea levels rise. Bright green shows low-lying areas vulnerable to flooding from groundwater upwelling as seawater intrusion increases. 

According to the 2021 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report, sea level will rise 2 feet by 2100 even if efforts are made to lower GHG emissions, and possibly as much as 7 feet by 2100 if we continue with “business as usual” (i.e., burning fossil fuels at the current unsustainable rate). Rapid sea level rise threatens beach loss, coastal and intertidal habitat loss, seawater intrusion into our groundwater supply (which could contaminate our drinking water supply and cause inland flooding from groundwater upwelling), as well as impacts from flooding or cliff erosion on coastal infrastructures like roads, homes, businesses, power plants and sewage treatment plants—not to mention nearby toxic sites.

King Tides: A Glimpse of Future Sea Levels

Ocean tides on Earth are caused by the gravitational pull of the moon (and the sun, to a lesser extent) on our oceans. When the moon is closest to Earth along its elliptical orbit, and when the moon, earth, and sun are aligned, gravitational pull compounds, causing extreme high and low tides called Perigean-Spring Tides or King Tides. These extreme tides provide a glimpse of future sea level rise.

Image courtesy of NOAA National Ocean Service.

In fact, King Tides in Southern California this December and January are expected to be 2-3 feet higher than normal high tides (and lower than normal low tides), providing a clear snapshot of what the regular daily high tides will likely be by 2100.

 

What is being done

Many coastal cities in California have developed Local Coastal Programs in coordination with the CA Coastal Commission to address sea level rise. The Coastal Commission is also developing new sea level rise guidance for critical infrastructure, recently released for public review. Unfortunately, if we continue with “business as usual,” the rate of sea level rise will occur much more quickly than we can adapt to it, which is why we need bold global action now to combat the climate crisis and limit sea level rise as much as possible.

What you can do

Motivated people like you can become community scientists by submitting King Tides photographs the weekend of December 23 and 24, 2022 to contribute to the digital storytelling of sea level rise. These photos are used to better understand the climate crisis, to educate people about the impacts, to catalog at-risk communities and infrastructure, and plan for mitigation and adaptation. Join the Coastal Commission in their CA King Tides Project!

Get involved in the December 23 and 24 #KingTides event

Instructions from the CA Coastal Commission:
1) Find your local high tide time for one of the King Tides dates.
2) Visit the shoreline on the coast, bay, or delta.
3) Be aware of your surroundings to ensure you are safe and are not disturbing any animals.
4) Make sure your phone’s location services are turned on for your camera and then take your photo. The best photos show the water level next to familiar landmarks such as cliffs, rocks, roads, buildings, bridge supports, sea walls, staircases, and piers.
5) Add your photo to the King Tides map either by uploading it via the website or by using the Survey123 app.

 

In the Los Angeles area? Here are some areas we expect will have noticeable King Tides:

In Palos Verdes, we recommend: Pelican Cove, Terrenea Beach, White Point Beach, and Point Fermin. In Malibu, we suggest: Paradise Cove, Westward Beach, Broad Beach, El Pescador State Beach, and Leo Carrillo State Beach.

ACTION LINK(S)

FIND LOCAL KING TIDE TIMES

SEE PREVIOUS KING TIDE PHOTOS

SUPPORT OUR WORK


Written by Annelisa Moe. As a Coastal and Marine Scientist for Heal the Bay, Annelisa works to keep our oceans and marine ecosystems healthy and clean by advocating for strong legislation and enforcement both locally and statewide. She focuses on plastic pollution, marine protected areas, sustainable fisheries, and climate change related issues.



Heal the Bay sails into 2023 celebrating a host of new local legislative policy successes, including LA’s citywide polystyrene ban. But what did Californians gain as a whole in 2022 environmental policy? Take a look back at this year’s wins and losses in California state legislation with Heal the Bay Coastal and Marine Scientist Emily Parker as we embark upon another year of advocacy.

HEAL THE BAY’S Science and Policy team worked tirelessly this year and we are both celebrating some major policy wins and grieving some losses. Let’s take a closer look at what advocates and our representatives have accomplished in the fight for environmental health and justice and where Heal the Bay can eye on continuing our work through determined advocacy next year.

⭐ Highlight Reel

1. PASSED Senate Bill 54 (Allen): The Plastic Pollution Producer Responsibility Act     

Central to Heal the Bay’s mission to make the coastal waters and watersheds of greater LA safe, healthy, and clean is reducing pollution at the source. Among them is single-use plastic. For four years, Heal the Bay and dozens of other advocates have worked tirelessly toward the passage of SB 54 legislation, combing through countless iterations and amendments. Thankfully the bill passed and was signed into law by Governor Newsom earlier this year. With some compromises, this bill makes huge strides in reducing California’s use and disposal of single-use products, particularly plastic. This bill:  

  • Sets a 25% source reduction goal for single-use packaging production by 2032 and by then, 65% of single-use packaging still being produced will need to be truly recyclable or compostable.
  • Establishes a Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO) to help California reduce plastic pollution, and creates strong state government enforcement and oversight that will remove power from the PRO should they fall out of compliance.
  • Requires $5 billion of environmental mitigation funding from plastic producers to go toward environmental restoration and cleanup over 10-years.

 2. PASSED Assembly Bill 1857 (C. Garcia): Zero Waste Transition and Incineration 

Trash can take many pathways at the end of its lifecycle, and one of the most problematic and inequitable destinations is an incinerator. Incineration burns trash at extremely high temperatures, polluting the air in surrounding environmental justice communities and contributing to climate change. One of the last two incinerators in the state is located right here in LA County in Long Beach and is old, dirty, expensive, and just unnecessary. AB 1857: 

  • Removes diversion credits for incineration, essentially deeming incineration as equivalent to landfill and disincentivizing the use of incineration as an end-of-life pathway for waste.
  • Funds investments into zero-waste infrastructure and programs in frontline communities most impacted by incinerators. 

3. APPROVED California State Budget: Allocations for the Environment 

Laws aren’t the only way to get things done politically. Our state budget plays a major role in how effectively our decision-makers combat environmental and public health crises. Through multiple pathways, the approved 2022-2023 California state budget set aside essential funding for plastic pollution reduction, climate change mitigation and adaptation, drought resilience, and toxic pollution cleanup. Here is the breakdown: 

  • AB 179 (Ting): Budget Act of 2022 – Allocates $25M in the state budget for refillable beverage bottles.
  • SB 154 (Skinner): Budget Act of 2022 – Allocates $5.6M in the state budget for DDT cleanup near southern California.
  • $54 Billion for Climate – A record-breaking allocation, California has ear-marked this pot of funds for programs such as electric transit, wildfire risk reduction, and a whopping $3 billion for combating California’s worsening aridification. Drought funding will be used for water conservation and drought mitigation efforts, including $75 million set aside to fund turf-replacement programs such as the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California’s rebate program. 

Other Environmental Wins 

  1. SB 1137 (Gonzalez) – Requires a 3200-foot setback between oil and gas infrastructure and sensitive receptors such as homes and schools. This bill was signed into law in August, however, a referendum has been filed to overturn it, which is currently in the signature-gathering phase. Learn more about how you can fight this. The City of LA also passed an ordinance requiring major oil extraction cessation.
  2. AB 2638 (Bloom) – Requires water bottle refilling stations in schools for new construction or modernization.
  3. AB 1817 (Ting) – Prohibits the manufacturing, distributing, selling, or offering for sale new textile articles that contain regulated per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are chemicals known to have harmful effects in humans and animals.
  4. AB 1832 (L. Rivas) – Bans seabed mining in state waters.
  5. SB 1157 (Hertzberg) – Increases drought resilience by updating water use efficiency standards.
  6. SB 1046 (Eggman) – Bans pre-checkout single-use produce bags that aren’t recyclable or compostable (think produce bags).

👉 Get caught up: Learn more about AB 2638, AB 1832, and SB 1157 from our previous California legislation blog post: 5 Bills that Need Your Support Before the End of California Legislative Season

Washouts Worthy of Another Tide 

  1. AB 1953 (Maienschein) – Would have required water refill stations in public places. While this bill was lost in assembly appropriations, it kept the ever-important conversation around the importance of reuse going in the legislature.  
  2. SB 1255 (Portantino) – Would have established the Dishwasher Grant Program for Waste Reduction in K–12 Schools to provide grants to schools for the purchase and installation of commercial dishwashers. This bill was passed by the legislature but vetoed by Governor Newsom who deemed it too expensive for the state to enact and felt that dishwashers could be purchased under existing Proposition 98 General Funds of $750M for schools to purchase and upgrade kitchen equipment    
  3. AB 2026 (Friedman) – Would have required e-commerce shippers to reduce the single-use plastic fill used to ship products (think the puffy single-use plastic in the packages you receive). This bill died in senate appropriations following hard opposition from industry.  
  4. AB 1690 (L. Rivas) – This bill was originally intended to ban harmful single-use plastic cigarette filters (butts) to reduce pollution. The language was watered down so much in scope that it was pulled by the author – we are planning another attempt next year! 
  5. SB 1036 (Newman) – Would have established the Ocean Conservation Corps to conduct ocean conservation projects and workforce development. While this bill was passed by the legislature, it was vetoed by Governor Newsom who deemed it too expensive of a program that was not accounted for in the state budget.   
  6. AB 2758 (O’Donnell) – Would have required CalEPA to conduct public meetings on the agency’s efforts to study and mitigate DDT and other chemical waste located off the coast of Los Angeles. This bill was sponsored by Heal the Bay and was lost in senate appropriations. We are exploring options to revitalize these efforts.

Crystal Ball – Looking Ahead 

Heal the Bay is already preparing for a busy and productive legislative season. We are working with Senator Allen, his staff, and CalRecycle on the successful and equitable implementation of SB 54 and hoping to see some major reductions in plastic pollution off our coast. Stay tuned and follow Heal the Bay on all our channels to stay up to date on how you can be an activist and help support all our efforts, both inside and out of the Capitol!  

ACTION LINK(S)

READ OUR PREVIOUS #CALEG UPDATE

LEARN ABOUT SB 54

SUPPORT OUR WORK


Written by Emily Parker. As a Coastal and Marine Scientist for Heal the Bay, Emily works to keep our oceans and marine ecosystems healthy and clean by advocating for strong legislation and enforcement both locally and statewide. She focuses on plastic pollution, marine protected areas, sustainable fisheries, and climate change related issues.



Long-time friend of Heal the Bay, and former Board Member, Nancy Akers passed away in December 2022, leaving behind an impressive legacy of social consciousness and environmental stewardship.

Heal the Bay will be forever grateful for the generosity, entrepreneurship and environmental stewardship of former Board Member Nancy Akers. When the Akers Family launched one of the country’s first certified organic cotton clothing lines, O Wear, they partnered with Heal the Bay to create the organization’s first branded organic cotton t-shirt, and an important relationship was born. Nancy served as a member of Heal the Bay’s Board of Directors for more than a decade as both the Vice President of Marketing and co-Chair of the Bring Back the Beach gala where Nancy became friends with Heal the Bay founder, Dorothy Green, who she loved dearly.

“It was wonderful to work so closely with Nancy for over a decade.  Her boundless energy, determination, passion, leadership and marketing expertise were so critical to Heal the Bay’s success. She will be sorely missed. ” – Mark Gold

Nancy’s creativity, perseverance, and passion for the environment earned her awards and accolades from Heal the Bay, the United Nations Environment Program, and President Clinton’s Council On the Environment for her many sustainability efforts.

Throughout her career, Nancy’s wide variety of philanthropical achievements reached across both social and environmental nonprofit worlds touching many lives through her tireless work. She served on the Board of Directors for The Dallas Children’s Theatre; And notably, she has a long and impressive career with American Women in Radio and TV (AWRT), as President of the LA Chapter of American Women in Radio and TV, as well as the Vice President of Programming and Professional Development for the National Chapter in New York. She was also a member of the National Chapter Board of Directors, and At-Large-Trustee of the Foundation of AWRT and directed the first American National TV campaign to address Women’s Rights in the workplace for CBS and AWRT.

Nancy will be missed dearly by her husband George, daughter Deirdre, son Christopher and her loyal canine companion Kristy.

Heal the Bay will continue to honor her legacy and years of success in its commitment to making the coastal waters and watersheds of Greater Los Angeles safe, healthy, and clean.

 

 

 



In Memoriam- Remembering a Heal the Bay Wavemaker – former Member of the Board of Governors, Dr. Aliza Lifshitz, physician, health broadcaster, and author.

Aliza Lifshitz M.D. (la Doctora Aliza) passed away on November 5, 2022, in Los Angeles, leaving behind a legacy of advocacy and empathy that will be missed.

She was a beloved physician, author, healthcare broadcaster, and environmental advocate. Her years of dedication and work with Heal the Bay were instrumental in educating both the English and Spanish-speaking communities of Los Angeles on the relationship between water quality and public health.

Dr. Aliza was the Spanish language voice for the Annual Heal the Bay Beach Report Card for years and represented Heal the Bay on Univision covering environmental issues and human health. She solidified and enhanced Heal the Bay’s relationship with Univision and helped the organization become a reliable source for the Latinx community. 

“She knew how to earn the trust and affection of those who knew her. She was able to create a clear connection between human health and water quality for Heal the Bay always advocating that the Latino community should be well-informed and have access to information about this issue. Her charisma, kindness, and professionalism will always be with me.” -Franki Orrala, Angler Outreach Program Manager.

Her impressive medical career spanned over 35 years, touching countless lives through her medical practice at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and healthcare advocacy and founded VidaySalud.com – the world’s largest Spanish language source of health and medical information.

Dr. Lifshitz held leadership positions as a member of the Board of Governors for Heal the Bay and prominent medical boards including the AMA, California Medical Association, LA County AIDS Commission, and PBS station KCET.

She leaves behind her husband, Carl J. Kravetz, her sister Viviana Lombrozo, her nephew Eric Lombrozo, her nieces Tania Lombrozo and Cayenne Barnum, and her great-nieces Orli and Anica Griffiths Lombrozo.



In Part 1 of our 3-part series, Commit to Conservation, Heal the Bay Water Quality Scientist Annelisa explains how smart water practices like recycling and conservation can help ensure the human right to water and the rights of nature, even as California becomes more arid.

MANY FOLKS LIVING IN CALIFORNIA are all too familiar with drought, because it seems like we are always in one. I was born and raised in California, so drought conditions have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I learned to turn off the faucet while I brushed my teeth, to limit my showers to 5 minutes or less, and to never let a drop of water go to waste. Many California residents have gotten really good at conserving water when drought is in the news, but we are not as familiar with the why behind it all, so those good water practices often fall away as soon as we get some rain. Unfortunately, one good rainstorm — or even a few — is not enough to end a drought, nor is it enough to prepare for the next one. Drought cycles have always occurred in California, and they continue to worsen as the climate crisis persists, due in part to a process called aridification that is making our dry years even drier. What we consider “normal” is constantly shifting, and then we still get periods of drought on top of that. In this blog, we will start to explore the why behind all of our conservation efforts, and what that means for Los Angeles’ water future.

A map of drought conditions in California, as of October 18, 2022. This map shows exceptional drought conditions (the highest level of drought severity) in the Central Valley. All of California is experiencing some level of drought conditions, and the majority of California is experiencing severe, extreme, or exceptional drought conditions. Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Water Management in Los Angeles

Where does LA Water come from? Source: Know the Flow / Heal the Bay

Roughly 80% of LA’s water is imported from hundreds of miles away in the Northern Sierra Nevada mountain range and San Francisco Bay Delta via the CA Aqueduct, the Eastern Sierra and Owens Valley via the LA Aqueduct, and the Rocky Mountains via the Colorado River Aqueduct. Most of this imported water starts as snowpack in the mountains. In fact, California’s water system was designed so that the snowpack would be our biggest reservoir, with the Sierra Nevada (which translates to snow-covered mountains in Spanish) alone holding 30% of California’s water. The snow would build up in the winter, and then slowly melt over the spring to fill reservoirs, recharge groundwater aquifers, and flow through our aqueducts so that we have water supply when we need it most in the summer and fall, at which time the cycle would start all over again.  

While we continue to take water from critical ecosystems like the Bay Delta, Owens Valley, and Colorado River Delta, which also need that snowmelt, we flush away the water that is available to us locally. Even in dry weather, 10 million gallons of water flow through Los Angeles’ stormdrain system and out to the ocean every single day just from nuisance flow (e.g., broken sprinklers, washing cars, hosing down driveways). And then, when we do get rain, that flow number surges with stormwater runoff, averaging 100 billion gallons of water wasted each year, when it could instead be captured and put to beneficial use. In addition, hundreds of millions of gallons of treated water is discharged from our wastewater treatment plants each day. Some of this treated water flows to the ocean through rivers and streams, and at least some of this flow may be needed to provide critical habitat for ecosystem health. But the treated water that is discharged directly to the ocean provides no beneficial purpose.  

To learn more about the LA Aqueduct and its effects on local peoples and ecosystems, watch The Aqueduct Between Us, directed by AnMarie Mendoza from the Gabrieleno-Tongva Tribe.  

Water Resources in Los Angeles Change with the Climate 

Climate change is happening now. We are seeing and feeling the effects every day with relentless record-breaking heat waves, floods, fire seasons, and droughts. We already experience what is called weather whiplash: dramatic swings between extreme weather patterns. Climate change continues to intensify these swings, so our dry years are hotter and drier, and our wet years are even more intense. More frequent dry years and hotter temperatures drive demand for water up (it takes more water to irrigate crops and landscapes), depleting water supply. Evaporation also takes its toll by pulling water from reservoirs and even taking moisture up from the land, which weakens ecosystem health and actually makes it harder for the land to absorb water when it does rain. Add longer and more intense droughts into that mix, and it is clear that California is becoming more dry (or arid) over time. This process is called aridification, and the trend will only increase as human-accelerated climate change continues. 

Low flow in the Colorado River, Source: Vicki Devine / Center for Biological Diversity

Critically low snowpack in California. Source: Stephanie Elam / CNN


Despite this dire news, it does still rain in Los Angeles. Looking ahead, we actually expect to get the same volume of rain locally on average as we have in recent history, but it will fall less often through heavier downpours. In addition, our dwindling snowpack reservoirs are melting faster each year. We do not currently have the infrastructure in place to capture that higher level of runoff from intense storms and fast snowmelt. This all means that more water will flow back to the ocean rather than being stored as snowpack, or infiltrated into groundwater reservoirs. Some people have suggested that more surface reservoirs are the answer, but they are excessively expensive. Much of the stored water would be lost to evaporation, and quite frankly, we have already dammed most of the rivers in CA. So we must rethink how we manage water to make the most of the resources we do have left.  

Water Management in Los Angeles Must Change, Too 

While we will continue to experience aridification and weather whiplash, we can still adapt to this hotter, drier future. To do this, conservation cannot only happen in response to a drought designation, but it must be a way of life. The good news is that there are local and sustainable solutions that individuals can do at home (indoor and outdoor) and systemic changes that we can push for together to be water wise 

We can source enough water locally to support our water needs and drastically reduce our reliance on imported water. This can be done through improving water conservation/efficiency both regionally and at home, groundwater cleanup, stormwater capture, and  wastewater purification, without turning to expensive, energy intensive, and environmentally harmful practices such as ocean water desalination. Additionally, there is an opportunity to use nature-based solutions that capture and infiltrate water naturally to support overall ecosystem health, which, in turn, can help to mitigate the impacts of the climate crisis, among myriad additional benefits. In this way we can ensure the human right to water so people can stay safe and healthy, and respect the rights of nature by keeping our ecosystems thriving. 

Nature-based solutions for stormwater capture. Source: Heal the Bay

Do What You Can When You Can – Stay Informed 

Issues of California’s dwindling water supply, increased demand, and uncertain reliability can feel overwhelming. But we are not powerless in this climate crisis. We can all take the Climate Challenge to do what we can when we can. Start today and focus on “what we learn” — or whatever resonates with you. You can stay informed. Heal the Bay can help.  

Over the next six months, Heal the Bay will be exploring what it means to live in an arid state, and what climate change, drought, and aridification mean for our water future. We will share solutions and opportunities for advancing water efficiency to become more water wise at home and as a community through collective and regional action. Stay tuned for more content! In the meantime…

💥ASK THE EXPERTS: What do you want to know? Ask our staff scientists any questions you have about aridification, drought, and water conservation. Your answer may be featured in an upcoming blog post or video from Heal the Bay.

List as many questions as you'd like!
Who asketh and wherefore art thou, questioner? You can also say 'Anonymous'.

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Written by Annelisa Moe. As a Heal the Bay Water Quality Scientist, Annelisa helps to keep L.A. water clean and safe by advocating for comprehensive and science-based water quality regulation and enforcement. Before joining the team at Heal the Bay, she worked with the Regional Water Quality Control Board in both the underground storage tank program and the surface water ambient monitoring program. 



The Clean Water Act revolutionized water protection law and has resulted in multiple cleanup success stories. However, as of March 2022, the goals of the Clean Water Act are not being met, and there is still much work to be done to achieve fishable, swimmable, drinkable water across the US.

LIVING IN A WATER-SCARCE region like Southern California, I hear this a lot: Water is life! And more than that, the quality of water affects the quality of life for humans, the environment, ecosystems, and, of course, the waters themselves. The US federal government recognized this decades ago, and created the first major federal law in the US to address water pollution, called the 1948 Federal Water Pollution Control Act. However, this policy was ineffective owing to a lack of oversight and enforceability. Public pressure following a series of environmental plights (including the Cuyahoga River catching on fire) forced the US to reconsider its approach, leading to the 1972 Clean Water Act (CWA) Amendment. This amendment, among many upgrades, gave the EPA more regulatory control to enforce clean water requirements and achieve swimmable, fishable, drinkable water.  

PHOTO: The Cuyahoga River on fire due to high amounts of flammable pollution in the water. Credit: Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections

The CWA protects areas designated as Waters of the US (WOTUS) including streams, rivers, lakes, estuaries, and wetlands. Waters of the US are designated with various beneficial uses such as water supply, navigation, recreation, fishing, habitat, etc. In California, new designation categories are being added now for Tribal Cultural and Subsistence Fishing beneficial uses. The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board, which reports to the EPA, enforces the federal Clean Water Act locally by determining the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) of pollution that a waterway can handle while still supporting its beneficial uses, and then regulating discharge to stay below that contamination limit. For more information on the structure of the CWA, check out Heal the Bay’s Clean Water Act Knowledge Drop 

Initially, the CWA aimed to achieve pollution-free waters by 1985. Unfortunately, that goal was not met. While this innovative water protection law has resulted in a number of water quality success stories, there is still much work to be done. In fact, as of March 2022, about half of US waterways remain impaired. According to a report from the Environmental Integrity Project, California unfortunately ranked first in the US for most river and stream miles listed as impaired for drinking water, and third for fish consumption. 

a)  b)

Maps of (a) California and (b) the Los Angeles Region, showing impaired waterways in dark green and unimpaired waterways in light green. Available at: California 2020-2022 Integrated Report 

The Los Angeles Region alone has 210 total waterways listed as impaired by pollution in 2022, and since many of those waterways are impaired for more than one pollutant, there are a total of 877 listings in LA. Fifty-four of these listings are related to trash pollution, even though LA was one of the first regions to adopt “zero trash” regulations. 

Santa Monica Bay is one of the waterways of LA listed as impaired by trash pollution and the Bay, along with the watersheds that drain into it and the beaches that line it, need care, protection, and advocacy. On Saturday, October 15, 2022, 366 Heal the Bay volunteers took to Will Rogers State Beach, just north of Santa Monica, for one of the biggest NothinBut Sand Beach cleanups of the year. In just under two hours, over 145lbs of trash were cataloged and removed from the shore. Thank you to all our volunteers who came out to help keep our precious coastline clean.  

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PHOTO SET: Hundreds of volunteers support Heal the Bay’s October Nothin’ But Sand Beach Cleanup in honor of the Clean Water Act 50 Year Anniversary. A special thanks to our cleanup sponsors Subaru and Audacy. Photos by Bria Royal / Heal the Bay

PHOTO: Heal the Bay staff member, Forest Leigh, inspecting trash pollution after a first flush event. Photo by Katherine Pease / Heal the Bay

Despite the remaining pollution in our waters, the Supreme Court is considering changes to the definition of WOTUS, which could leave many waters unprotected under the CWA. But there are also many folks working hard towards swimmable, fishable, drinkable water for all. The EPA rereleased its 2022-2032 Vision for achieving CWA goals. The 2022-2023 Vision aims to maximize coordination through partnerships to plan and prioritize opportunities for holistic watershed protection, restoration, and data analysis; and it includes new focus areas for environmental justice, climate change, tribal water quality, and program development, as well as an increase to overall program capacity. Heal the Bay and other NGOs will continue to advocate for water quality projects and comprehensive and science-based water quality regulation under the CWA. 

50 years after the Clean Water Act was established, California’s waterways still need the protection and attention of all those who can help. Discover all the ways you can make an impact. Register to attend Heal the Bay Volunteer Orientation and help us make strides for the next 50 years. 

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Written by Annelisa Moe. As a Heal the Bay Water Quality Scientist, Annelisa helps to keep L.A. water clean and safe by advocating for comprehensive and science-based water quality regulation and enforcement. Before joining the team at Heal the Bay, she worked with the Regional Water Quality Control Board in both the underground storage tank program and the surface water ambient monitoring program. 



Sponsor Spotlight: We’d like to send a huge wave of thanks to Heal the Bay’s featured Coastal Cleanup Day 2022 sponsor, Water for LA. Learn more about how Water for LA is empowering residents to be part of LA County’s water supply solution.

THE FUTURE of Los Angeles County depends on a water-literate public that understands how simple individual actions impact the complex networks that make up our water system and the health of our coast and waterways. Topics like recycled water, flood protection, water pollution, and conservation are important and should feel as accessible as discussing the latest Dodgers game.

The truth is we can no longer afford to take our water or our environment for granted. It took a monumental effort to grow this improbable metropolis out of our arid soil. We met that challenge, but we face new threats to the sustainability and success of Los Angeles.

Water for LA is a program to transform LA County residents from passive water consumers to empowered and informed water advocates dedicated to sustainability and health for all. This is why we are glad to sponsor Heal the Bay’s 2022 Coastal Cleanup Day events. Our team will be on site in Santa Monica supporting the clean up and providing more information to attendees about how they can make small changes to their water use that make a big impact.

As a trusted resource on all things water, Water for LA leads campaigns that educate the public and foster more sustainable behavior to help ensure the region’s future.

Our water goes through an epic journey to reach the taps in our homes—sometimes it travels far, moving across mountains and through miles of pipelines, and sometimes it goes through complex processes locally at our water recycling plants and through groundwater cleanup. And we each have our own journey with water. Water for LA’s 2022 campaign—My Journey with Water—identifies simple behaviors, such as sweeping your driveway instead of spraying it down, that we can each adopt to keep our beaches and waterways clean AND conserve water.

Water for LA envisions an LA County where residents understand and nurture their relationship with water—where it comes from, its connection to the rivers and lakes upstream, and how their actions impact their neighbors, region, ocean, and the planet.

Where else can we build a community of fierce water advocates? As the saying goes: only in LA.

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VISIT WATER FOR LA’S WEBSITE

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Sponsored by Water for LA. On Saturday, September 17, 2022, more than 4,583 Heal the Bay volunteers gathered across LA County to remove 11,298 pounds of trash and 313 pounds of recyclables from our watersheds, neighborhoods, and coastline. We’d like to send a huge wave of thanks to all of our Coastal Cleanup Day 2022 volunteers, organizers, and sponsors! 



The LA Regional Water Board approved an agreement for one of the nation’s most polluted sites. Concerns about transparency, accountability, and loopholes in this agreement leave the public vulnerable to continued contamination from the Santa Susana Field Lab.

THE REGIONAL WATER QUALITY CONTROL BOARD VOTED ON AUGUST 11 to approve an agreement concerning Boeing’s highly contaminated Santa Susana Field Lab, formerly known as Rocketdyne, located in the hills above Simi Valley. The agreement sets up a process by which Boeing will eventually be able to remove its water quality regulations after cleanup has been completed, and after they have proven that runoff from the site is clean. Heal the Bay attended the 10-hour-long August 11 hearing and, while we fully support cleanup, we voiced our concerns that this agreement would not adequately protect water quality or public health and asked for a postponement to make improvements to the plan. We also raised concerns with the process — the agreement was made behind closed doors, the public was not able to submit written comments, and the only opportunity to speak was at the hearing. Due to an overwhelming turnout from members of the public, input at the hearing had to be further reduced from the typical 3 minutes to 1 minute and cut off completely at 5pm.

Both Boeing and the Regional Board claimed that this agreement was necessary for Boeing to commit to the required cleanup work, and that a delay in approval of the agreement would only delay the cleanup efforts. Stakeholders were put in an unfair position, threatened with delayed cleanup if we did not support an agreement that we had remaining concerns about. However, the blame for delays should not be placed on stakeholders and community members; these concerns and objections are not what is slowing down the process — Boeing has yet to even start a cleanup that was supposed to be completed back in 2017. As community member Marie Mason mentioned to me at the hearing, “If Boeing wanted to do the right thing, they would have done it 20 years ago,” and could have avoided the impacts of pollution and contamination exposure during that time. Further, the cleanup plan itself also raised concerns (see more on this in the next section) and while the decision before the Board was not specifically on the cleanup plan, the cleanup and the agreement are inextricably linked, and approval of the agreement meant a de facto approval of the cleanup plan.

Despite the overwhelming call for either a no vote or a delay, the Board unanimously approved the agreement, with minor edits. Heal the Bay will remain engaged on this issue because the bottom line is that cleanup to a level that is fully protective of human and ecological health needs to happen as soon as possible.

The history of contamination at the Santa Susana Field Lab

Boeing, NASA, and the Department of Energy own the Santa Susana Field Lab (SSFL) site, where industrial activities were conducted from 1949 to 2006 to test rocket engines and nuclear reactors. This site contains high levels of contamination from these past activities, which have negatively affected the ecosystem, the groundwater, and the surface water that runs off the site, as well as the communities that rely on those water resources. Additionally, SSFL is located on top of a hill, which means that runoff from the site flows downhill into the community to the north in Simi Valley, feeds into the headwaters of the Arroyo Simi waterway, and feeds into theheadwaters of the Los Angeles River. Contamination from this site affects the entire LA Region, but the impacts are felt most severely in local communities.

In 2007, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) set requirements to fully clean up the contaminated soils at SSFL by 2017. But after decades of litigation and delays (led by Boeing), we are now five years after that deadline, and the cleanup has barely even begun. The longer we wait for Boeing to clean up their mess, the longer our ecosystems and communities are exposed to the contamination. In fact, the 2018 Woolsey fire remobilized existing contamination, leading to 57 distinct surface water violations in a single wet season. Had the cleanup been completed by 2017, as originally required, these violations would not have occurred. To add insult to injury, nearly all of Boeing’s fines associated with those violations were waived. Members of the community are the ones paying the price. According to a study by epidemiologist Hal Morgenstern of the University of Michigan, “the incidence rate [of cancer] was more than 60% greater among residents living within 2 miles of SSFL than among residents living more than 5 miles from SSFL.”

To avoid additional delays, CalEPA announced in May 2022 that a new cleanup settlement had been negotiated over the past several years between DTSC and Boeing, with an agreement that Boeing would not sue over this one. However, with no opportunity for public engagement, or even public comment, stakeholders have been left with so much uncertainty surrounding the new cleanup requirements. Community groups, non-governmental organizations, and even municipal legal consultants have reviewed the final cleanup agreement. These expert reviews have revealed a number of contamination limits altered in the latest version, and there is uncertainty on whether these changes are based on the best available science.

The agreement between Boeing and the Regional Board

The LA Regional Water Quality Control Board, which regulates only the surface water runoff at this site, drafted an agreement (also known as a Memorandum of Understanding or MOU) with Boeing to outline how Boeing can eventually remove its water quality regulations. The MOU requires Boeing to complete the soil cleanup as required by DTSC, and conduct modeling and monitoring to prove that surface water runoff is clean. The Regional Board believes that this MOU provides an extra safety measure, setting additional milestones to protect surface water quality, even if the cleanup agreement is flawed.

Although we agree with this in theory, the MOU can only offer this type of reinforcement for surface water quality protection if significant changes were made to the agreement language. Unfortunately, the Regional Board offered no opportunity for written comment on the MOU. Luckily, Heal the Bay was able to attend the hearing in person and provide our full statement in writing to the Board members, even if our verbal comments were cut short.

Heal the Bay’s Recommendations to improve the Santa Susana Field Lab MOU

  1. To address remaining concerns about the agreement, we asked the Regional Board to commit to providing a period for written public comments on the monitoring program to show whether surface water runoff is clean.
  2.  We recommended that the MOU must ensure regulation of past industrial activity, not just of future construction activity.
  3. While the MOU had the potential to provide assurances for protection of surface water, the potential was not there for groundwater. We urged the Regional Board to reclaim regulatory authority of groundwater to ensure that the long-term quality of both surface water and groundwater at this site were sufficiently protective of human and ecological health.
  4. If buried contaminated soil is left behind under the DTSC cleanup requirements, an earthquake or another fire followed by flooding could re-mobilize buried contamination. We demanded that the MOU include a statement to ensure that the responsible parties would have to address any and all remaining contaminated soil so long as they pose a risk to human or ecological health.

“This MOU is an opportunity to provide a backstop to protect surface water quality even if there are flaws in the cleanup agreement. However, the MOU can only offer this type of reinforcement if some changes are made… To ensure that our concerns are addressed, we request that the Regional Board commit now, within the language of the MOU, to providing a period for written public comments on the monitoring program.”
– Elana Nager, Heal the Bay

Heal the Bay Policy Intern, Elana Nager, provides public testimony at the August 11, 2022 Hearing of the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board concerning the Santa Susana Field Lab Memorandum of Understanding.

In response to Heal the Bay’s comments, the Regional Board did commit to our recommendation #1, to provide a period for written public comments on the monitoring program — a program that will determine whether the cleanup was successful. We have remaining concerns about how rigorous that monitoring program will be, but by securing a public review we will at least get the chance to address those concerns later on.

Additionally, in response to pressure from Heal the Bay and a community-based coalition (including Parents against Santa Susana Field Lab, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Committee to Bridge the Gap, and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility), the Regional Board took our recommendation #2 and removed one small word – “or” – from the agreement. This small change will require permit coverage for stormwater discharges associated with past industrial activity, and permit coverage for stormwater discharges associated with construction, as needed for any future cleanup activity. Originally, permit coverage could have only addressed construction activity, which would have been insufficient.

“We request that the ‘or’ in this statement be removed… Coverage must be specifically related to past industrial activity. One word makes a world of a difference.”

– Prince Takano, Heal the Bay

Heal the Bay Policy Intern, Prince Takano, provides public testimony at the August 11, 2022 Hearing of the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board concerning the Santa Susana Field Lab Memorandum of Understanding.

Although Board Member Christiansen attempted to include provisions for all of Heal the Bay’s recommendations, our two biggest concerns about re-mobilization of contaminated soil and pollution of groundwater were ultimately left unaddressed. In fact, when the Regional Board asked DTSC to address these concerns, DTSC Director Williams responded simply that groundwater will be monitored, and that the geology at this site is complicated. There was no additional discussion.

Even with the severely limited public process, significant remaining concerns, and the hundreds of voices asking for a either a no vote or a delay (including surprising testimony from former Regional Board Chair Lawrence Yee, who attended as a member of the public to ask the Board to reject the agreement), the Regional Board unanimously approved the MOU, with minor edits.

Where do we go from here?

The few small changes to the MOU do ensure a better public process moving forward, but do not ensure that this MOU will protect surface water quality or public health. However, we might have another chance to hold Boeing accountable for contaminated surface water runoff through their current water quality regulations (or discharge permit), which is up for renewal right now and will be upheld until cleanup is complete and they have proven that surface runoff is clean. There will be another Regional Board meeting later this year to discuss that permit. Heal the Bay will be there advocating for a strong permit that is protective of water quality not only in runoff from the site, but also runoff on the site, which can infiltrate into the ground and further contaminate the soils and groundwater. Stay tuned for more information about that meeting, and how you can join Heal the Bay to hold Boeing accountable.

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EDITOR NOTE: Since the publishing of this blog post, the Regional Board has reached out to Heal the Bay to clarify that the reduced speaking time offered during the hearing was a direct result of the unusually large turnout from members of the public. The article has been updated to acknowledge these conditions.

Written by Annelisa Moe. As a Heal the Bay Water Quality Scientist, Annelisa helps to keep L.A. water clean and safe by advocating for comprehensive and science-based water quality regulation and enforcement. Before joining the team at Heal the Bay, she worked with the Regional Water Quality Control Board in both the underground storage tank program and the surface water ambient monitoring program. 



A view of Big Rock Beach from above / BeachReportCard.org. — It’s National Water Quality Month, and to celebrate we’re sharing with you a little-known LA County beach spot that shines when it comes to water quality.

Big Rock Beach

Big Rock Beach received an A+ in our most recent Beach Report Card—the highest grade a beach can get. Located in Malibu, about 8 ½ miles north of the Santa Monica Pier on PCH, Big Rock Beach has free parking and a coastal access stairway that leads down to the beach.

Lots of rocks mean you may see a tide pool or two, and with views up the coastline, it’s a great place to catch a sunset.

Why is it so Clean?

With less development than more urban shorelines, a largely natural landscape upstream, and only a single storm drain nearby, bacteria levels tend to be low at Big Rock Beach. For the same reasons, beaches in Malibu tend to fare better than beaches in more densely-populated areas, largely due to reduced urban runoff.

The beach is also what we call an “open ocean beach”, meaning it has good water circulation, so any pollutants that do enter the water are quickly flushed away from the shore by waves and currents.

“big blue” by Jodi Marr / Flickr

Why Do We Care About Water Quality

Heal the Bay created The Beach Report Card more than 30 years ago, when beachgoers knew very little about the water quality at their favorite beaches, or the health risks of swimming in polluted waters. With weekly and annual water quality grades based on bacterial pollution for more than 700 beaches from Washington State all the way down to Tijuana, you can know before you go.

Find water quality grades for Big Rock Beach and any other beach you’d like to visit on our free website and app.

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READ “ANNUAL BEACH REPORT CARD”

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Written by Lindsey Jurca. To help keep the beach-going public safe, Heal the Bay created The Beach Report Card over 30 years ago. The Beach Report Card is an important and comprehensive public health tool, providing weekly and annual water quality grades based on bacterial pollution at over 700 beaches from Washington to Tijuana.