Top

Heal the Bay Blog

Through the end of December, we will share the stories of amazing people whose lives have been changed by Heal the Bay. Now they are changing our region for the better. Please make your Year-End Gift today to support the work of these water warriors.

Ken Seino almost died surfing at Malibu’s fabled First Point.  First he was scared, then he was angry. Then with Heal the Bay’s help he took matter into his own hands – flying to Sacramento with us in 2009 to fight successfully for stricter pollution limits. Here’s his story in his own words:

Call me biased, but from the first time I surfed the place, I knew Surfrider Beach was special – dare I say sacred? But the continuous human pollution from Malibu Creek eventually played Russian Roulette with me and it won. I suffered a prolonged illness from a fecal virus contracted surfing here and I almost died from it.  The disease damages the heart muscle and even causes your own immune system to weaken you. It is irreversible.

Two surfer friends of mine did die from the very same virus here.  They asked me to help them fight for its restoration to the pure and holy place that the Chumash tribe ascribed it to be. In order to honor my friends and honor this place, how could I refuse?

As a member of the Malibu Surfing Association and a Surfrider Beach regular since 1971, I was asked by MSA president Michael Blum to accompany the “A-Team” to Sacramento and speak before the State Water Board.

The State Board was weighing in on whether to support the Regional Water Board’s earlier prohibition of on-site wastewater plants in the Malibu Civic Center area. Opposition to the action was strong with Malibu’s city attorney actually threatening litigation if the State Board upheld the prohibition, which aimed to prevent seepage of harmful bacteria from outmoded septic tanks.

I had heard of last-minute strategies by the city of Malibu to have the septic ban remanded to the L.A. Board because of its contention that the prohibition was “technically unfeasible and politically unachievable.”

So I was worried as I walked into the State Water Board hearing room and sat next to my esteemed teammates. We each spoke, with [former HTB president] Mark Gold wrapping up succinctly all of the issues at stake. We sat down, hoping and praying that our words persuaded the five-member board that would make the final decision.

The city of Malibu arrived with its own A-Team. Euphemized threats of litigation were uttered and Mark Gold was gratuitously misquoted.  I hoped that the board would see through this.  Other opponents spoke as well. The residents and commercial interests complained how oppressive the ban would be to them personally.

But suddenly, after the last speaker had appealed, the board called for the vote.  And in a few minutes, a unanimous vote (5-0) in our favor was recorded.  About 90% of the room vacated as the board moved on to other business.  We sat there together silent, staring straight ahead, stunned.  All these decades of activism, protest and creation of organizations to fight this breach upon the environment and public health, and now the victory had finally been achieved. Is this how it felt at Waterloo?  Mark Gold got up from his chair, looked at us and said, “What, did someone die? Hey, we won!”

It didn’t hit me personally until I was on the plane staring out the window as we were coming home.  I thought about my own fight for this place I love, and also about Ralph Gambina and Erik Villanueva who died from infections from surfing Malibu.  They were vocal in insisting upon this ban of septic tanks in Malibu. This is what they fought for and it is finally a reality.  As I stared out the window of the plane at the glistening ocean, I cried for Malibu, but this time they were tears of joy.

Make a Year-End Gift to Heal the Bay


Our work isn’t possible without the real passion, action and commitment from people like Ken and you. Help us spark more positive change in our region, up and down the coast, and around the world.



Bay lovers, here’s your one big chance to make your voice heard about the planned restoration of the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve in Playa del Rey.

As we’ve been telling you, this highly degraded ecosystem is one of the few remaining coastal wetlands left in greater L.A. It needs some TLC – a lot of it, actually.

Even if you don’t live near the Reserve, you should care deeply about its future. Wetlands are incredibly important for water quality, flood control and open space in our increasingly urbanized region.

Please join Heal the Bay staff and the other members of our Wetlands Principles Coalition on Wednesday, Nov. 8 for the 6-8:30 p.m. public meeting to discuss various alternatives for bringing this area back to full life. The California Department of Fish & Wildlife “CDFW” will be holding its only scheduled meeting to provide an overview of various restoration alternatives and gather public input.

RSVP

In September, the CDFW and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a draft Environmental Impact Report/Study for the restoration of the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve. The public comment period has been extended to Feb. 5.

The Ballona Wetlands are highly degraded from landfill, are too high in elevation and lack the critical interactions between land and water. In addition, more than half the Wetlands Reserve has been taken over by non-native invasive plants, reducing economic, ecological, and social value.

Bring Back Ballona Wetlands _MG_8315 Ballona Wetlands Ballona Wetlands _MG_8212 ballona creek bike path NBIMG_9191 NBIMG_8959 IMG_3684 _MG_8259 ballona wetlands ballona sunset
<
>

Given that Los Angeles County has already lost 95% of its coastal wetlands, it’s critical that the state act to protect Ballona. Wetlands are unique habitat that connect land and sea.

Right now, only 3% of Ballona’s roughly 600 acres is functioning habitat. That simply is not enough. To be clear, there are a few vocal opponents who contend that no work should be done to restore the wetlands. But our coalition believes strongly that we must act now, guided by the best science, to prevent further irreversible deterioration.

Our Wetlands Principles Coalition has been busy analyzing the highly technical EIR document. We have been examining the various Alternatives for four key desired outcomes: increased habitat quality to benefit native wildlife, greater protection from flooding, improved water quality and increased public access to trails for education and nature appreciation.

Attend the hearing and tell officials that you want a robust restoration of the Ballona Wetlands that:

  • Maximizes natural wetland habitat and function
  • Protects native wildlife and plant diversity
  • Increases natural buffers against climate change
  • Minimizes negative disturbance
  • Provides open space and access for all
  • And most of all you want to BRING BACK BALLONA!

The public meeting will be held at Burton Chace Park. RSVP for the public hearing and we will provide you with more information about how to prepare and be heard.

If you cannot attend the meeting, you can also send your comments by email to:

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: Daniel.p.swenson@usace.army.mil

California Fish & Wildlife: BWERcomments@wildlife.ca.gov

Read more about our efforts to “Bring Back Ballona” and also register for our Explore Ballona events this month, ranging from bike tours to habitat restoration.



Summer 2017 beach water quality grades are in. Heal the Bay’s Science Policy and Programs team report the latest findings, and encourage you to visit the California coast this fall.

Most of us might think that the hot days of summer beach-going season are over after Labor Day Weekend. However, many local Angelenos and tourists know that some of the best days for ocean lovers are from September through October.

Less people, easier parking, tepid water temperatures, and great weather, all make for a solid outing. In addition, the water quality this past summer has been fantastic at almost all beaches throughout California.

Despite all the rain in the Golden State earlier in the year, 96% of beaches (out of 400 sites) earned an A or B grade. 18 sites (4%) received a grade of C or lower, including 8 sites earning an F.

Find out more detailed water quality information about your favorite beach: download Heal the Bay’s Summer 2017 Beach Report Card for California.

As a reminder, you can always visit Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card website (or get your grades on-the-go and install the Beach Report Card app for iPhone and Android) to get the latest information on all California beach conditions throughout the year. (We publish the Beach Report Card on a weekly basis for the whole year, so can stay informed if you plan on swimming in the ocean beyond October).



Ballona Wetlands Nicola Buck Heal the Bay

Photos of Ballona Wetlands on September 16, 2017 by Nicola Buck.

[UPDATE: Due to popular demand, we’ve extended our Ballona Wetlands events into November. Schedule updated below with new events!]

Excuse the pun, but today marks a watershed moment for one of our region’s most important natural places — the Ballona Wetlands.

After years of delay, state and federal authorities released restoration plans Monday for the beleaguered 600-acre Reserve in the Playa del Rey area. Greater L.A. has already lost nearly 95% of its coastal wetlands, so we’re ecstatic to see officials finally moving forward to protect this ecological jewel.

But it’s not just scientists and enviro junkies who should care. Wetlands touch everyone in our region, no matter where we live.

  • Do you like more thriving open space for all Angelenos?
  • Do you like protecting habitat for local animals and native species?
  • Do you like improved water quality throughout the region?
  • Do you like natural buffers from the coming ravages of climate change?
  • Do you like providing natural spaces for young students to explore?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you already care about protecting and restoring wetlands.

Why Ballona Needs Our Help To Heal

For Angelenos, Ballona Wetlands, located between Marina del Rey and LMU, are the largest wetlands habitat in the region. Unfortunately they are not healthy or functioning well and need our help.

Decades ago, authorities building Marina del Rey dumped 3 million cubic yards of fill onto the wetlands – about 28 million wheelbarrows’ worth. Even before that, to protect against flooding, Ballona Creek was encased in concrete, removing the vital connection between land and water.

These actions served as a double-whammy – degrading natural habitat and starving the wetlands from essential sources of salt and fresh water.

Ballona Wetlands Nicola Buck Heal the Bay

One Step Closer To Restoring Ballona

Today the California Department of Fish & Wildlife and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released their long-gestating draft Environmental Impact Report/Statement (EIR/S), which presents three project alternatives for restoration. They examine the pros and cons of each alternative to meet the overall goals of the project, which are ecosystem restoration, increased public access and enhanced recreational use.

The good news is that the lead agencies seem fully and genuinely committed to a habitat restoration project that grows public access. Our staff scientists look forward to working with them to realize the option that we think best meets the goals for a healthy wetland.

The release of the EIR/S marks the beginning of a 60-day public comment period when anyone can weigh in on the plans.

Robust Restoration Is The Only Option

Heal the Bay is working together with a coalition of leading environmental groups and wetland scientists to advocate for restoration projects that put science first and maximize every opportunity to comprehensively restore our degraded wetlands.

Over the next few weeks, Heal the Bay will dive into the details and options highlighted in the restoration plans. The coalition doesn’t have a preferred alternative at the moment but will identify one in the coming weeks. It’s a thousand-page document – without the appendices! — so our team needs some time to thoughtfully review the EIR/S.

One alternative creates a more natural creek by removing concrete from Ballona Creek to reconnect the land to the water, north and south of the Creek; another alternative keeps the concrete along Ballona Creek but allows water to enter the floodplain north of the Creek, creating a so-called oxbow. Every EIR/S also has to examine the impacts of doing no project. You can see a nice review of the various options here.

Ballona Wetlands Nicola Buck Heal the Bay

Exact details of the restoration are still being worked out. But we can say for certain that we have to do something.

The Ballona Wetlands are highly degraded from fill, are too high in elevation and lack the critical connection to fresh and salt water. In addition, more than half the Wetlands Reserve has been taken over by non-native invasive plants, reducing economic, ecological, and social value.

If we just leave the Wetlands alone, and do no restoration work, they will continue to degrade. They cannot heal on their own.

It’s critical we help our local environment thrive. In L.A. County, on average we have 3.3 acres of greenspace per 1,000 residents – well below the national average for major metropolises. We can do better.

You’re Invited To Explore Ballona

Heal the Bay, along with our partners, is dedicated to Bringing Back Ballona. As part of this effort, we invite you to join us over the next month to discover the wetlands.

We’re hosting weekend events in October and November so the general public can explore this amazing resource, see why it needs help, and understand its incredible potential. (See the full event calendar here.)

Ballona Wetlands Nicola Buck Heal the Bay

You can pick and choose from a number of fun opportunities with our staff, partners and volunteers:

And stay tuned – as we review the alternatives for restoration, we will keep you informed. We are going to need your help. We need you to add your voice to help protect this special green space.

Ballona Wetlands Nicola Buck Heal the Bay



As Strawless Summer comes to a close, Heal the Bay is committing to a strawless forever. We’d also like to thank all of our partners and pledges for making this campaign possible.

In America, food and drinks are routinely served with a side of plastic. One coffee comes with a cup, sleeve, lid, stirrer, straw, sugar packet and cream. A breakfast burrito includes a wrap, container, salsa, utensils and bag. But just because it’s always on the menu, doesn’t mean we have to order it.

If you’ve been to one of our beach cleanups in greater Los Angeles, you don’t need crazy stats to shock you – like 500 million plastic straws being used in the U.S. every day1. You’ve seen our pollution challenges first-hand. In fact, around 40% of the trash found in the environment is beverage-related2, and single-use plastic straws are one of our most commonly found items at cleanups.

A post shared by Heal the Bay (@healthebay) on

“No straw, thank you”.

This simple statement, echoed by eco-conscious patrons in restaurants, bars, coffee shops and to-go eateries, is the murmur of a movement aimed at combating the single-use plastic convenience craze.

Earlier this year, Heal the Bay joined the straw-free movement and launched the Strawless Summer campaign to raise awareness and reduce plastic straw distribution in Los Angeles County.

Here are a few highlights:

“Straws Upon Request”

We’ve come to expect plastic straws available at dispensers, tossed on our tables and placed in our drinks without asking for them first. What would happen if we turned the tables? This is what we aimed to address in our “Straws Upon Request” Study.

During Strawless Summer, we partnered with three local Santa Monica establishments (Pono Burger, The Misfit, Ingo’s Tasty Diner) to pilot a 4-week program aimed at reducing plastic straw distribution. Patrons wouldn’t be given straws by waitstaff unless they asked for them, in the same way customers must ask for glasses of water during the drought.

A post shared by Kathy (@katkelleher2) on

Did people totally freak out? No. Was it easy to implement? Yes. Did it earn the businesses major goodwill with green locals? Yep, it most certainly did.

If patrons asked for straws (one restaurant said this happened about half the time), the waitstaff explained their absence from the experience was part of a local effort to be more green. Then, the restaurant offered paper or plastic straws.

“We chose to participate in a Strawless Summer because it is great for the environment and the Bay. We are a locals restaurant and have a huge locals following a lot of whom spend a good amount of time in the Bay [and] ocean,” said one restaurant manager who participated in the study.

See more local establishments who pledged to go straws upon request during Strawless Summer.

MonSTRAWsity Hits Home

Here’s a frightening truth: the average American family uses 1,752 straws in a year3. To visualize this fact, we collected plastic straws at our coastline cleanups and pieced together the MonSTRAWsity, whose suit is made out of… 1,752 straws. The MonSTRAWsity spent the summer wreaking havoc on the Santa Monica Pier near the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, in the South Bay and all over Los Angeles. By the end of Summer, the MonSTRAWsity was even surfing the airwaves.

A post shared by Heal the Bay (@healthebay) on

The Sipping Point

It’s estimated that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the sea than fish by weight. Another study shows microscopic plastic fibers are being detected in 83% of drinking water worldwide and a whopping 94% of U.S. tap water4. Microplastics are even showing up in table salt, according to new research.

Heal the Bay’s Nothin’ But Sand, Adopt-a-Beach and Suits on the Sand cleanup volunteers together have collected close to 13,000 plastic straws and stirrers5 from L.A. County beaches in 2017 alone.

Local inaction is our own worst enemy; however, on the flip side, local action is our best opportunity. Heal the Bay will continue to work with businesses, environmental partners and local municipalities to curb the proliferation of plastic pollution, including advancing alternatives to plastic straws and only providing straws upon request.

L.A. doesn’t have to suck. Let’s rethink the drink and stop the alarming plastic pollution trends from continuing.

Learn more about the benefits of skipping the straw and make the pledge to go straw-fee at LASucks.org

Looking for something fun to share? Download this amazing poster below created by illustrator Daniela Garreton – please make sure to give her credit for this masterpiece. (Download PDF).

Our Strawless Summer 2017 campaign would not be possible without this tribe of water warriors: Thank you to Mick and the team at ZehnerGroup, Susan Lang (creator of the MonSTRAWsity and Heal the Bay volunteer extraordinaire), Andrea Maguire and the STRAWS documentary team, SoHo House Malibu, All At Once, Jack Johnson and the Ohana Foundation, Lonely Whale Foundation, 5 Gyres Institute, Klean Kanteen, Simone Boyce and KTLA 5, and all the awesome local businesses who pledged to go Strawless or “Straws Upon Request”, we salute you!

Special shout outs to these local businesses for their participation in Strawless Summer:

Pono Burger, The Misfit, Ingo’s Tasty Diner, Bareburger Organic, Laurel Tavern, Hermosa Beach Fish Shop, Beckers Bakery & Deli, Brother’s BurritosTallulas and Watermans Safehouse

Sources:
1. “The Be Straw Free Campaign”. National Park Service Commercial Services. (Last update 11/26/2013) https://www.nps.gov/commercialservices/greenline_straw_free.htm
2. Plastics BAN List. Publication. 5 Gyres, Clean Production Action, Surfrider Foundation, USTREAM. 2016. http://d3583ivmhhw2le.cloudfront.net/images/uploads/publications/PlasticsBANList2016.pdf
3. “The Be Straw Free Campaign”. National Park Service Commercial Services. (Last update 11/26/2013) https://www.nps.gov/commercialservices/greenline_straw_free.htm
4. “New Research Shows Plastic Fibers in Drinking Water”. Plastic Pollution Coalition. (published 9/6/2017) http://www.plasticpollutioncoalition.org/pft/2017/9/6/microfibers-the-plastic-inside-us
5. Heal the Bay’s Marine Debris Database. (data pulled from 1/1/2017-9/21/2017) http://sites.healthebay.org/MarineDebris/MDDB/



Spending time with some exceptional students at the 28th annual Coastal Cleanup Day serves as a real pick-me-up for Communications Director Matthew King.

After 10 years at Heal the Bay, I’ve become a bit jaded about our cleanups. I see the same mounds of trash every time I head to a site – cigarette butts, plastic water bottles, fast-food wrappers, you name it.

In the time I’ve worked here, our cleanup volunteers have removed more than 2.6 million items of man-made debris from L.A. County shorelines. That astounding figure stirs mixed emotions. It’s saddening to realize that we still treat our natural places as trash dumps, but it’s also reassuring to know so many Angelenos still care enough to donate a Saturday morning to protect what they love.

Coastal Cleanup Day 2017 was no different. Under pleasantly overcast skies, volunteers stretching from Compton to Malibu collected roughly 23,000 pounds of trash in just under three hours. To put that in perspective, that’s about the weight of two enormous T. Rex dinosaurs!

Beyond the usual suspects, we found a few oddball items this year – a drone that must have crash landed underneath the Redondo Pier, a whole set of unopened men’s dress shirts resting forlornly on the sand at Will Rogers State Beach, and a jock-strap and cup in Palos Verdes. (Props to whoever had the nerve to pick it up!)

It’s also revealing to see what we didn’t find. A veteran site captain at Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve was astounded how few plastic bags they found at this L.A. River location, which has historically been visibly choked with plastic bags. It’s a good sign that the recently passed state ban is working!

In all, more than 9,600 volunteers joined us at 61 sites across the County today. We always mobilize a cross-section of greater L.A, both the famous and not-so-famous. I’ve met professional surfers, NBA centers, All-Star outfielders and Oscar-winning actors. But it’s usually the everyday folks like you and me who have interesting stories to tell.

Take the inspiring group of six students from Bell Gardens High School who served as site captains for our beach cleanup in Playa del Rey today, under the caring guidance of teacher Patty Jimenez.  The youth brigade — Angel Diaz, Christopher Linares, Heidi Lara, Kimberly Gonzalez, Otzara Villalobos and Vanexi Jaramillo — mobilized 342 volunteers, who collected 235 pounds of ocean-bound debris.

I first met four of these kids last Wednesday morning at a KTLA Channel 5 news shoot to promote today’s cleanup. They had all arisen at 3 a.m., clambered into Patty’s sedan and traveled 23 miles in darkness to do a series of live interviews at the Del Rey Lagoon. With the bright lights of the camera staring them down as dawn broke, they spoke passionately and endearingly on live TV about their desire to curb cigarette-related pollution. Patty beamed at each of her charges, nodding as they offered simple but powerful testimony.

But what really touched me that chilly morning had come a half hour earlier.  I had approached Patty’s car to give the group a heads-up and to share some media tips. A gaggle of kids sat quietly inside, dressed in their teen uniform of denim, hoodies and Vans tennis shoes.

And then I saw something beautiful that made me well up.

In the cramped back seat, two students scanned textbooks, using their mobile phones to illuminate the pages in the dark. They were doing their math homework — in an unfamiliar neighborhood, hours before their school day would start and hours before most of their peers would even be awake.

I told Patty how moving the sight had been and she shared that that these students’ work ethic and optimism keep her motivated when she faces obstacles at school. She shared that this same group of students played a lead role last month in convincing the Bell Gardens City Council to adopt its first ban on smoking in parks and recreation areas.

The simple scene in the car gave me a moment of hope about the public school system, and Patty’s story gave me hope about the next generation of environmental stewards. This is why I work at Heal the Bay, to help my colleagues create leadership opportunities for students like Patty’s, to connect people from all across our region to their watersheds and to each other.

That to me is the real gift of Coastal Cleanup Day.

You can find more images from the day on our Flickr album and at our Facebook Page (check out the new videos, too).

Thank you to all our site captains, volunteers, partners and staff. We couldn’t have done this without you! And a special thank you to this year’s organizers, sponsors and otherwise remarkable organizations: California Coastal Commission, California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways, City of Santa Monica, Golden Road Brewing, Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, Schuchart/Dow, Union Bank, LAcarGUY, KIND Snacks and REI, as well as our photographers Nicola Buck, Cali Gilbert and Alvin Lam.

If you weren’t able to join us today, we have many volunteer opportunities throughout the year – out in the field, in our offices, or at our Santa Monica Pier Aquarium. Explore the various options and time commitments here.



Update (9/10/17): Bacteria levels remain very high in Sepulveda Basin. Most sites also exceed regulatory limits in Elysian Valley, although amounts of bacteria are lower than earlier this week. Based on these latest sampling results, we still recommend avoiding water contact with the L.A. River.

Heal the Bay is urging the general public to avoid the waters of the Los Angeles River this weekend because of alarmingly high levels of bacterial pollution.

Our staff scientists collect weekly water quality samples at four sites in the Sepulveda Basin and Elysian Valley, areas of the L.A. River that have become popular for kayaking, fishing and other recreational activities. The levels of bacteria are at the most worrying levels since Heal the Bay began monitoring L.A. River sites in 2015.

The results have a special urgency this weekend, as the fourth annual L.A. Boat Race is scheduled to take place at the Glendale Narrows (Elysian Valley). Dozens of kayakers are expected for the boat pageant and parade.

Samples taken on Sept. 6 in the Sepulveda Basin by the City of L.A. Sanitation Department showed very high levels of bacteria, well over accepted regulatory and health limits. The poor results are possibly related to runoff from recent thunderstorms and rains. A fish kill in the Balboa Boulevard area of the Basin has also likely degraded water quality. Low-oxygen levels, high turbidity and increased ammonia levels have been cited by city officials as contributing factors to the fish kill.

Additionally, Heal the Bay scientists and other monitoring groups recorded very high levels of bacteria on Sept. 1 and Sept. 4 in the Elysian Valley area. Rainstorms and poor upstream water quality likely led to the spike in such bacteria levels (the presence of which indicate an elevated risk for ear infections, respiratory illnesses and gastrointestinal illnesses for people who come in contact with the water).

Heal the Bay urges people to stay out of the water and to delay any planned kayaking trips until water quality results show marked improvement. Our staff scientists expect to get updated bacteria counts this weekend (please check our Twitter and Facebook pages on Sunday as we’ll be posting the results).

Unlike at the beach, there is not yet an official protocol for authorities to alert the general public or kayak outfitters when potentially dangerous levels of bacterial pollution are found at popular recreation zones at the L.A. River. The only way for the general public to know about potential threats to their health is to access water quality data on Heal the Bay’s River Report Card, which is updated weekly.

Heal the Bay looks forward to working with the City of Los Angeles and the L.A. County Department of Public Health to resolve jurisdictional conflicts about health oversight of the L.A. River. This effort should hopefully lead to formal protocol for proactively warning kayak operators and the general public as soon as they know bacteria levels exceed safety thresholds.

Every year thousands of people recreate in the L.A. River. In 2014, approximately 6,000 people utilized the recreation zones, according to the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.

The L.A. River has been designated by state regulators as a bacteria-impaired waterbody. The Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board has identified several conduits of bacteria to recreational zones along the river: urban runoff, leaks and flows from wastewater collection systems, illicit connections and failing septic systems. Bacteria sources include pets, horses and human waste.

Experiencing the L.A. River firsthand is an undeniable way to make a connection to a river that needs supporters and advocates; many Heal the Bay staff members and volunteers have kayaked the L.A. River over the years and will continue to do so. We also believe that the public has a right to know what the water quality of the river is and then to make an informed decision about how they want to experience the river.

If you are thinking about getting out on the water, please check out our FAQ about recreation and water quality issues along the L.A. River.



As California’s legislative session nears its end, an important water bill passed out of the Assembly last Thursday, giving us hope that cities will soon find it easier to finance much-needed stormwater projects. SB 231, led by state Sen. Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), is now headed to the Governor’s desk. We believe it’s a great step to increase runoff capture, cleansing and reuse throughout the state.

What is SB 231?
SB 231 gives cities, counties and local water agencies broader authority to finance local projects to put stormwater to use. Cities currently charge residents for infrastructure like sewage treatment, but have been hamstrung by rules that prevent them from charging property owners for stormwater services. Cities need public funding measures to build enhanced runoff infrastructure that can augment local water supply while protecting against flooding. We need to treat stormwater as a resource instead of a nuisance.

What problem does it solve?
California suffers from an outdated water management system that has created serious long-term challenges that are intensified during times of drought and heavy rains. For example, an average 1-inch storm in Los Angeles County sends over 10 billion gallons of runoff to the Pacific Ocean, along with the pollutants picked up and carried with it. This wasteful and environmentally harmful practice could be improved by capturing, cleansing and reusing that stormwater. However, one of the biggest barriers to plumbing our cities has been confusion around the tools local government can use to finance new or updated infrastructure to put runoff to use. SB 231 helps address this problem by clarifying the definition of sewer service so that projects designed to capture and clean stormwater can be more easily financed, consistent with how municipalities support water, sewer and trash services.

I care about clean water, but what other benefits does it provide?
SB 231 will provide economic benefits by creating jobs through local infrastructure investments and upgrades. It will shield our communities from costly and devastating flood damage, and it would also help cities and counties invest in a more water-resilient future in the face of climate change – cleaning stormwater to help build local water supplies and reducing reliance on costly and uncertain imported water.

What will this allow greater L.A. to do?
Each day roughly 10 million gallons of water flows uselessly from the urban Los Angeles County area out to sea, even as we desperately need water. Up to 630,000 acre feet of water per year could be generated by better stormwater capture and reuse in the state. That volume is roughly equal to the amount of water used by the entire City of Los Angeles annually. Properly managing runoff and water supply is a critical responsibility of local government, and in L.A. it’s required by regulations set by the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board. If SB 231 is signed into law, it will provide L.A. region municipalities more options for funding these critical stormwater service investments, allowing us to modernize the way water is managed in the region.

What happens next?
SB 231 is now headed to the Governor’s desk. Gov. Brown has until Oct. 15 to sign the bill into law or reject it with a veto.

Follow @OurWaterLA to stay up to date with the latest news about building a more water-resilient region. You can also learn more and get involved at ourwaterla.org, a website created by a coalition of leading community groups including Heal the Bay.



Most people view Labor Day weekend as the last celebration of summer and a final opportunity to enjoy a relaxing water adventure either at the beach or the river. A last hurrah before settling into the fall season.  With that in mind, now is a good time to deliver a friendly reminder about water quality when heading to your favorite beach or stream.

First – let’s remember the basic safety tips.

These are some general rules to follow to lower your risk of getting sick when:

Going to the beach

  • Swim at least 100 yards from piers and flowing storm drains.
  • Because of poor circulation, water quality at enclosed beaches and harbors is often poorer than at open beaches.
  • Wait at least 3 days after a rainstorm before diving into the water (and wait at least 5 days before swimming at beaches near storm drains).

Going to the river

  • Do not drink the water.
  • After water contact, rinse off with soap and water.
  • Be aware of your swimming conditions (funny smells, homeless encampments, nearby drainages, posted signs) before entering the water.

Second – knowledge is power.

Heal the Bay has two great, if not awesome, sources of water quality information regardless of whether you are going to the beach or the river. In addition to practicing safe swimming, water enthusiasts should visit Heal the Bay’s Beach Report Card to get the latest information on all California beach conditions. (We publish the Beach Report Card on a weekly basis for the whole year, so can stay informed if you plan on swimming in the ocean beyond Labor Day Weekend.)

If you plan to visit a swimming hole in Los Angeles County this coming weekend, then see our River Report Card to see updated water quality information about these swimming holes.

Our motto has always been, and always will be: KNOW BEFORE YOU GO!

Have a great Labor Day Weekend!



Summer is coming to an end, but our #StrawlessSummer Campaign is a pledge you can keep all year round.

We are thrilled to be joined by local businesses like Pono Burger, The Misfit, Ingo’s Tasty Diner, Bareburger Organic, Laurel Tavern, Hermosa Beach Fish Shop, Beckers Bakery & Deli, Brother’s BurritosTallulas and Watermans Safehouse for our “Straws-Upon-Request” campaign. These businesses are leading the way to change consumer behavior across our region. If a straw is absolutely needed, biodegradable paper straws are available by request.

Americans use roughly 500 million plastic straws daily – that’s enough to fill up 125 school buses and to wrap around the planet 2.5 times. Because they aren’t readily recyclable, most plastic straws end up in landfills, and the rest wind up polluting the environment. Plastic pollution is a major problem, in fact it’s estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea by mass than fish. Skipping the straw is an easy way to make a big difference.

L.A. sucks at times, but we don’t have to! We just launched our new campaign microsite (thanks ZEHNERGROUP). You can take the pledge to go strawless, catch up on the latest straw-related news, share with your friends and find out which local restaurants and bars are going straws-upon-request. Learn more at lasucks.org.