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Heal the Bay Blog

Category: Los Angeles

Prioritizing water quality, nature-based solutions, sustained community engagement, equity, and good local jobs!

Los Angeles County made history last November when voters overwhelmingly approved Measure W (the Safe, Clean Water Program) to revamp our outdated stormwater system! And this vote did not come a moment too soon. In the 2018-2019 rain season, 18.8 inches of rain fell over Los Angeles County. This equates to almost 200 billion gallons of stormwater flowing through our streets, into our waterways and out to the ocean, picking up pollutants along the way that pose serious risks to public and environmental health. We can no longer stand to let stormwater pollute our waters, and we can no longer afford to let good rain years go to waste.

There is good news: Thanks to LA County voters, we now have the Safe, Clean Water Program to fund stormwater projects throughout our region to capture, clean, and reuse this water resource! Heal the Bay (a core team member of the OurWaterLA Coalition), along with our dedicated members and volunteers, played a huge roll in this victory vote in November 2018. Since then, OurWaterLA has continued to work closely with County staff to implement the Program.

Safe, Clean Water Program Safe, Clean Water Program Safe, Clean Water Program Safe, Clean Water Program Safe, Clean Water Program
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Shelley Luce, Heal the Bay CEO, shares a public comment about prioritizing nature-based solutions and equity in the implementation ordinance. (Photo by Alex Choy)

Today, the Safe, Clean Water Program moved forward with a unanimous vote by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to approve the Implementation Ordinance, reiterating the County’s commitment to improve water quality and public health, prioritize nature-based solutions, promote local jobs, and provide multiple benefits to our communities. Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Hilda Solis also called for a multi-agency committee to help coordinate efforts to implement multi-benefit projects, which will allow for the leveraging of funds from other sources including Measure M, Measure A, and Measure H.

However, there is still work to be done to ensure that these promises are kept as the Program rolls out. Although the Implementation Ordinance is finalized, many of the important supporting documents are still in development, and do not yet reflect the goals listed above. OurWaterLA turned out in full force to make recommendations for how these supporting documents can be strengthened to prioritize nature-based solutions, community voices, equity, and local jobs.

The Board of Supervisors also voted to appoint 107 members to the Watershed Area Steering Committees and the Regional Oversight Committee. These committees will decide how the Regional Program funds will be spent. But our work is not done! These funding decisions must be made with consideration given to community input. Search your address and find out which watershed area you are in, then see a list of your Watershed Area Steering Committee members, and get to know your committee representatives.

As you peruse the list of committee members, you will recognize one of them already! Heal the Bay President and CEO, Shelley Luce, has been appointed to the Regional Oversight Committee, which reviews the funding decisions for each of the nine Watershed Area Steering Committees.

Heal the Bay will continue to play a pivotal role as implementation moves forward. Committees will start to meet by the end of summer 2019, calling for projects in the fall, which will receive funding as soon as it is available in spring 2020. Stay tuned in the coming months to hear about exciting projects that will be funded by the Safe, Clean Water Program!



World Oceans Day is on Saturday, June 8, 2019. Heal the Bay shares a roundup of fun ocean-inspired events in the Los Angeles area that you won’t want to miss!

On World Oceans Day people around the globe come together to honor our oceans, which cover over 70% of Earth’s surface and sustain one million species of animals.

Looking for things to do around L.A. to immerse yourself in the marine world? From the worlds of science, art, film, and fashion, here are six World Oceans Day events nearby that you should consider adding to your social calendar.

Atlas Obscura: Aquatic Gender Fluidity
Fri. June 7, 7pm-9pm @ Heal the Bay Aquarium under the Santa Monica Pier

This unique Heal the Bay Aquarium event was created specifically for Pride Month🌈! Enjoy cocktails, listen to speakers from the LGBTQ+ community, and learn how many marine species in our oceans change sex, gender roles, and use forms of asexuality to survive. Laura Rink, Associate Aquarium Director at Heal the Bay Aquarium will discuss the gender diversity of our local marine inhabitants followed by a presentation from transgender speaker and educator, Michelle Dennis, who joins us on behalf of PFLAG.

RSVP


Recycled Plastic Lifeguard Tower Inauguration
Sat. June 8, 9am-Noon @ Manhattan Beach

See how plastic waste can be transformed into usable products. Get your coffee to-go Saturday morning (in a reusable cup!) and come down to Manhattan Beach pier on the sand at Bruce’s Beach (26th Street). Watch how the ByFusion team diverts 1,420 pounds of plastics and recycled surfboard foam waste into a functional Lifeguard Tower. The tower will be on display until sunset on #WorldOceansDay.

RSVP


“Reef Paintings” Exhibition
June 1-16 @ Silverlake

Dulce Stein and The Neutra Museum are proud to present ‘Reef Paintings, Cataloguing Nature’s Fingerprint’ by Michael Torquato deNicola in honor of World Oceans Day. The art exhibit covers the artist’s surfing adventures in Chile, Sumatra, Nicaragua, Maui, and California alongside his first-hand observations of the environmental impacts on reefs from plastics, polluted run-off, and development.

MORE INFO


“The Smog of the Sea” Film Screening
Sat. June 8, 12:30pm-5pm @ Heal the Bay Aquarium

Explore oceans of inspiration at the Aquarium with marine-themed games, activities, scavenger hunts, and crafts. “The Smog of the Sea” a 30-minute film by musician Jack Johnson about single-use plastic in our once pristine oceans will also be screened throughout the day.

MORE INFO


The MY HERO Project Short Films Screening
Sun. June 9, 2pm-4pm @ Santa Monica

Enjoy a free short film screening of uplifting short films that honor World Ocean’s Day and Peace and Social Justice, hosted by filmmaker and social justice activist, Trey Carlisle, and MY HERO International Film Festival Director, Wendy Milette. The event takes place in Moss Theater at New Roads School.

MORE INFO & RSVP


Fred Segal Malibu Trunk Show
June 6-9, 10am-9pm @ Malibu

Join our fashionista friends at Fred Segal Malibu for a trunk show celebrating World Ocean Day with their fully sustainable vintage collection; both luxury vintage as well as the Morphew Collection, which is made from one-of-a-kind vintage materials. In addition to donating proceeds to Heal the Bay, the Fred Segal team are also hosting a beach cleanup in the ‘Bu to give back.

RSVP


How else can you get involved?

 🐟 Become a Heal the Bay Sustaining Member for $9 a month.

 🐟 Pre-order your Heal the Bay x K-Swiss limited edition sneakers made from recycled and eco-friendly materials.

 🐟 Stay informed about beach water quality and practice safe swimming in freshwater, too.

 🐟 Sign our Plastic Petition to advocate for new statewide policies in California that drastically reduce single-use product and packaging waste.

 



A day spent enjoying the waterways of L.A. County should not make anyone sick.

Heal the Bay today released the annual River Report Card, which assigns water quality color-grades of Red, Yellow, or Green for 27 freshwater sites in Los Angeles County. Grades are based on levels of bacteria monitored in 2018 and prior years.

Our staff scientists put a ton of work into this comprehensive study of bacterial pollution in our local waterways. We encourage you to soak up all the stats and charts we’ve assembled in the report, so we are all better informed about water quality in our region.

The River Report Card is the most comprehensive water quality report to date on bacterial pollution in popular freshwater recreation areas within the Los Angeles River Watershed, the Malibu Creek Watershed, and the San Gabriel River Watershed. These valued public places are often used for swimming, wading, fishing, kayaking, and other activities, especially during summer months when communities seek relief from hot SoCal days.

Here are some of the major findings:

  • The good news is that over half of all the water quality samples taken at freshwater sites in 2018 received Green grades – so bacterial levels were not a cause for concern at the time of the sampling.
  • However, there is a significant risk of getting sick from freshwater contact in Los Angeles County during dry weather. In 2018, 43% of water quality samples monitored by Heal the Bay came back as Yellow or Red, signaling a moderate to high public health risk.
  • The River Report Card features a Top 10 Freshwater Fails list. Taking the top spot with the worst grades overall was Hansen Dam, located in the Upper L.A. River Watershed, which had the highest public health risk (this site received Red grades in 80% of water samples taken!). Just last week, it was reported that over twenty lifeguards in L.A. developed rashes after swimming at Hansen Dam. See the full list of Freshwater Fails on page 10.
  • The River Report Card also includes a Top 10 Honor Roll list of the freshwater sites with the best grades overall. Six locations earned perfect Green scores in every sampling, including four sites in the San Gabriel River Watershed and two sites in the Upper L.A. River Watershed. Heal the Bay recommends that the public head to Hermit Falls and the East Fork San Gabriel River areas for freshwater swimming, based on the 2018 water quality analysis. Water quality conditions are subject to change so it’s best to check the latest available data when choosing a swimming hole. View the entire Honor Roll list on page 11.
  • Freshwater sites in more natural areas tended to earn better grades than freshwater sites near development. Read the report’s conclusions on page 22.
  • Better State and regional oversight and funding are needed for monitoring and public notice of water quality in freshwater recreation sites. (Our full recommendations starting on page 25) Monitoring protocols and public notification in L.A. County are not standardized, and government agencies only test for E. coli. Testing should also include the fecal indicator bacteria Enterococcus. Solely monitoring for E. coli might be putting the public at unnecessary risk. More on page 23.
  • The River Report Card includes storm drain monitoring. See which eight storm drains in the L.A. River Elysian Valley Recreation Zone need to be prioritized for runoff remediation on page 29.

Download Report in English

Read Executive Summary in Spanish

Download Press Release

Donate to Heal the Bay

Tips for enjoying and staying safe in L.A.’s rivers, streams, and creeks

Before heading to a freshwater recreation area in L.A. County check out Heal the Bay’s River Report Card at healthebay.org/riverreportcard (New data coming on Memorial Day). If water quality is poor (Yellow or Red), consider choosing a site that has good water quality.

People can also minimize their risk by limiting water contact, avoiding submerging their heads underwater, avoiding hand-to-face water contact, and washing off after contact using soap and clean water. For all water recreation, users should avoid entering the water with an open wound, if immunocompromised, or after a rainfall. Always heed official regulatory signs posted by the City or County. Swimming is always prohibited in the L.A. River main channel.


About the River Report Card

We believe the public has a right to know about the conditions of our local waterbodies, and to make informed decisions about how they want to experience them. That’s why Heal the Bay developed the River Report Card — the most comprehensive water quality report to date on freshwater recreation areas in the greater Los Angeles area.

Heal the Bay began monitoring freshwater recreation sites in 2014 and developed the River Report Card program in 2017 to provide easy-to-use water quality information to the public. Water quality grades are based on the levels of fecal indicator bacteria (E. coli and Enterococcus) and are displayed as Red, Yellow, or Green. Green means there is a low risk of illness when there is contact with the water. Yellow indicates a moderate risk, while Red signals a high risk.

Since Heal the Bay started monitoring freshwater recreation sites and making water quality data public, some positive changes have included increased bacterial monitoring and public notification signage in L.A. River recreation zones as well as increased dissemination of water quality information to the public through emails, websites, and other online means by government agencies collecting water quality information. Our annual River Report Card 2018 includes additional recommendations for water quality monitoring and public notification protocols to be the most protective of public health.

Heal the Bay also manages the Beach Report Card, available at beachreportcard.org, which provides A-to-F letter-grades for water quality at hundreds of beaches on the West Coast.

Interested in learning more? Contact our team!



(Photo of Santa Monica Bay taken by Lidia Grande-Ruiz on February 16, 2019.)

Los Angeles decision-makers, and leaders throughout California, announced three major initiatives this February. The moves could dramatically shift our region and state toward a sustainable future.

What a month for our natural environment! And, no, we don’t mean this crazy weather.

Our policy leaders just took a big stand against these notorious environmental offenders: single-use plastics, fossil fuels, and wasted water. Here is the rundown on what action was taken and how it directly impacts the health of our ocean and communities.

1. Solving our pollution crisis by rethinking our waste stream

New legislation has been introduced in California, which tackles single-use waste and pollution at the source! The proposed legislation will push ALL industries to meet California’s single-use waste standards — requiring single-use plastic packaging distributed or sold here to be truly recyclable or compostable by 2030. It also requires industries to decrease single-use disposables by 75 percent through source reduction or recycling.

We are so proud to help California take the lead on reducing single-use waste. Heal the Bay volunteers have removed four million plastic items from our beaches over the last two decades (the most common plastic finds are polystyrene and plastic pieces, wrappers, snack bags, bottle caps, and straws).

While the bills (AB1080 & SB54) are in the early stages of development, we are thrilled to be working on this comprehensive solution that will impact generations to come. Please stay tuned for developments. And thanks to Ben Allen Lorena GonzalezScott Wiener Nancy SkinnerLaura FriedmanPhil Ting and Tasha Boerner Horvath for leading the charge!

Read More


2. Increasing our water supply with a smart plan for wastewater

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant (aka sewage treatment plant), one of the largest in the world, will recycle 100% of the City’s wastewater by the year 2035.

The water will be treated extensively and then put into our local groundwater supply for additional treatment by natural soils. Afterwards, the clean water will be pumped up to replenish our local tap water supply. Hyperion’s capacity is 450 million gallons per day and treated water currently flows out to the ocean. But with full recycling at Hyperion we can re-use that water!

Los Angeles is a big city, and pulls a significant amount of water from the Eastern Sierra and San Francisco Bay-Delta. Our local water use impacts the entire state of California. By taking smart action, we reduce our reliance on far-away water sources and become more self-sufficient.

Back in the 1990s, Heal the Bay won the fight to stop partially-treated sewage flowing from Hyperion into the Santa Monica Bay. Once again, we’re seeing the results of collective action with the new plan to treat and re-use all that water — instead of sending it uselessly to sea. Our founder Dorothy Green would be so proud of L.A. for taking this giant step forward.

Read More


3. Saying farewell to fossil fuels for clean and safe alternatives

Garcetti made another big announcement this month in favor of sustainability. He stated that the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has a deadline to close three coastal gas-burning power plants in El Segundo, Long Beach and the Los Angeles Harbor area by 2029. The plants will be replaced by renewable energy sources and storage.

Not only does this drastic change help to reduce the emission of greenhouse gas, it also puts an end to the harmful practice of using ocean water for once-through cooling, which makes sea water more acidic and destroys marine and estuarine life in the process. Nearly 10 years ago, Heal the Bay was instrumental in advancing a policy to address the phase out of once-through cooling at coastal power plants in California. Finally, the tides are a-changin’.

Read More


If you squint out onto the horizon, you’ll see them. Local marine animals are jumping for joy and celebrating a brighter tomorrow.

Thank YOU for your commitment to clean water. We wouldn’t be having these critical conversations about policy without your ongoing support and advocacy.



honor the ocean 2018

We are blessed to live in a place where we are rich in history, diversity and ecology. And we should take every opportunity granted to us to celebrate this.

This past fall, the Los Angeles County Marine Protected Area (MPA) Collaborative Network hosted the 2nd annual Honor the Ocean event at Zuma Beach in the City of Malibu to acknowledge and celebrate Chumash maritime culture, stewardship and science efforts to preserve and protect the ocean. From seeing dolphins to hearing stories about dolphins, here are my top 4 moments from the event.

4: Enjoying the Bay

Surfers of all ages paddled out in the water. Seeing them get on their boards was thrilling because they were so excited to catch a wave. Like Phil Edwards once said, “The best surfer out there is the one having the most fun.” Edwards makes a great point. Even though surfing is a challenging sport, you simply can’t help but have fun. The more fun you have, the more you want to practice it. And with practice comes passion. This quote can apply to anything in life, really.

3. Celebrating the Chumash People

The Chumash and the Gabrielino-Tongva peoples were the First People of the Channel Islands and Santa Monica Mountains areas. I learned so much about their traditions and culture at the event. To kick off the event we all surrounded the tomol, which is redwood sewn-plank canoe. Pretty amazing!

There was a Ceremonial Chumash blessing that was led by Mati Waiya, Founder and Executive Director of the Wishtoyo Foundation. After the blessing, we had the opportunity to talk to one of the members of the Chumash Women’s Elders Council. She encouraged all the youth to carry forward the Chumash tradition of protecting the environment for future generations. Her words and wisdom were inspiring.

2. Story time!

No amount of technology can replace the beauty of live, spoken word storytelling. At the event, the Chumash people shared a beautiful story about dolphins and how singing a special blessing can bring dolphins closer to us on land. Just as the story came to a close, the crowd spotted dolphins leaping out of the ocean. Coincidence? I think not! It was pure joy. Which leads me to what’s next…

dolphin symbol on the tomol

1. Dolphins!!!

No doubt, dolphins are awesome. And it’s truly mind-blowing to think about how much humans have in common with them. We both feel sadness, pain, anger and happiness. We protect our young and we do our best to stay together as a family (pod). It was thrilling to see a small pod of dolphins swimming by during the Honor the Ocean event. Especially since dolphins were etched on the tomol and a centerpiece during story time. What a magical moment to have witnessed.

At the closing of a wonderful day, the Chumash leaders gave us a few heartfelt suggestions that I wanted to pass along to you:

  • Bless the day that we have been given to see.
  • Give thanks for the sun that rises in the distance.
  • Less screen time, more real time!

So what are you waiting for? Go out and discover something new.

Thanks to all the Honor the Ocean event partners for a great day: Wishtoyo Foundation, City of Malibu, Chumash Maritime Foundation, Los Angeles County Lifeguards, Los Angeles Waterkeeper, The Bay Foundation, California Conservation Association, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, Santa Monica Mountains Restoration Conservation District, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and USC Sea Grant Program.


About the Author:

Lidia Grande-Ruiz is a Digital Advocacy Intern on Heal the Bay’s Communications team. She has also volunteered at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium. Lidia is currently a Film Production student at Santa Monica College. Aside from her love of the ocean, she’s also obsessed with Buffy, Bones, reading, writing and orcas! 😀



“We cannot recycle our way out of our plastics problem. The only way is to eliminate its use in the first place.”  – L.A. City Councilmember Paul Krekorian.

The City of Los Angeles has long been a leader on environmental issues. The city’s plastic bag ban took effect in 2014, following years of advocacy by Heal the Bay’s science and policy team. Thanks to that effort, momentum built for a statewide ban that went into effect in 2016.

Since then, we have seen a marked reduction of single-use plastic bags in the state – some 70% reduction in bag litter, according to Californians Against Waste.

This week, the L.A. City Council made more progress toward moving forward on two new and critical goals to help reduce waste locally.

First, the Council voted unanimously Tuesday to craft a plastic straws ordinance that takes the statewide ‘single-use plastic straws on request’ policy even further. The new measure would require customers to explicitly ask for a plastic straw at all food and beverage facilities in the City of L.A., with a goal of phasing out single-use plastic straws by 2021.

Heal the Bay volunteers have removed more than 2.5 million pounds of trash from L.A County beaches, rivers and neighborhoods. Most of this trash consists of plastic, polystyrene and single-use items. Since 2000, Heal the Bay volunteers have picked up more than 126,000 straws and stirrers — these materials pose serious risks to our environment and local wildlife.

It’s becoming clear that we cannot continue to look at this plastic waste problem item-by-item; we must address it comprehensively. The negative impacts of single-use plastics on our oceans are well known. If we do not change our practices, there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans by 2050 (by weight), according to a recent study.

Only a few hours after the full Council voted to move forward with drafting the Plastic Straws-On-Request Ordinance with hopes of implementing it by Earth Day 2019, its Energy, Climate Change and Environmental Justices subcommittee also voted unanimously to propose an even more comprehensive zero-waste initiative to address ALL single-use plastic waste.

The zero-waste initiative instructs the Bureau of Sanitation to analyze the feasibility of pursuing alternative approaches to waste reduction (besides recycling). Examples include measures adopted by the EU (25% reduction in plastics production by 2030) and those in Berkeley (ban all single-use foodware used by restaurants and other food establishments).

The Bureau of Sanitation will report back to the Council within 60 days with a report on its findings and recommendations for further action.

Heal the Bay is heartened to see the city taking a firm stance on the critical issue of plastic pollution. As demonstrated by the plastic bag ban, the changes that we make here in L.A. can have far reaching impacts beyond our borders.

We have the opportunity to stand by California cities like Berkeley and Santa Monica, which have pursued aggressive plastic reduction efforts. Beyond curbing waste in our home, the measure would serve as a strong example for the almost 50 million tourists who visit L.A. each year.

When L.A. makes noise, the rest of the world listens.



The Heal the Bay team created this brief voter guide for the November 6, 2018 midterm election in Los Angeles County. Did you know? California is one of a few states that allows “Conditional Voter Registration“. This means you can register to vote conditionally all the way through Election Day on November 6. Contact the Los Angeles County Election Office for more information if you still need to register to vote!  If you are voting by mail-in ballot, make sure to have your envelop postmarked by Nov. 6.

 

VOTE: Yes on Measure W 

The issue: Los Angeles is a water scarce region, and much of the water that we do have is polluted.  Stormwater runoff is now the number one source of pollution in our rivers, lakes and ocean.  The highly urbanized watersheds of L.A. County allow billions of gallons of stormwater to flow directly to our waterways, taking oil, trash, fecal bacteria and other contaminants with it.  In 2017, 100 billion gallons of water were wasted because we were not able to capture, clean and reuse it.  Measure W is the solution to turn stormwater from a hazard (pollution, flooding, wasted water) into an incredible resource – clean and safe water.

The stakes: Stormwater currently poses a serious risk to public and environmental health. A study conducted in Los Angeles and Orange Counties found that the regional public health cost of gastrointestinal illnesses caused by contact with polluted ocean waters was between $21 and $51 million each year.  It also brings water quality below federal standards, leaving cities vulnerable to violation fines up to $25,000 per day.  Cities throughout L.A. County have developed plans with specific projects to remove pollutants from stormwater, leaving clean water that can be recycled for beneficial uses; however, these projects cannot be completed without adequate funding.  That’s where Measure W comes in.

Our Recommendation: Save the Rain. Save L.A. County. Vote YES on W!


VOTE: No on Proposition 6 

The Issue: Transportation is currently one of the largest sources of carbon emissions, leading to poor air quality and other detrimental effects associated with climate change including ocean acidification and sea level rise.  We need to address the inadequacies of California’s transportation system, but unfortunately, California’s local public transportation agencies have faced budget shortages for more than a decade.  Proposition 6 would repeal transportation taxes and fees provisions, which voters overwhelmingly passed in 2017, that would pay for transportation improvement programs.

The Stakes: Proposition 6 would eliminate approximately $3.3 billion per year specifically earmarked to repair or replace unsafe roads, bridges and overpasses.  It would also eliminate an additional $1.7 billion per year for projects that will improve alternative transportation methods, such as public transportation and active transportation.  This includes $100 million per year dedicated to build safer bike paths and crosswalks to incentivize active transportation.

Our recommendations: Cast your ballot to protect environmental health and public safety.  Vote NO.


View more info about California Ballot Propositions:

http://quickguidetoprops.sos.ca.gov/propositions/2018-11-06

Download our Voter Guide 2018



Measure W is a water-quality funding measure on the November 6, 2018 ballot in Los Angeles County. Heal the Bay encourages you to VOTE YES ON W. Help us spread the word: Take part in an upcoming Measure W event -and- get the facts about this modest parcel tax that would increase our region’s local water supply upon voter approval.

L.A. has a once-in-a-generation chance on November 6, 2018 to capture, clean and save up to 100 billion gallons of rain each year — enough water to meet the needs of more than 3 million Angelenos annually.

Let’s not waste water. Let’s not waste this opportunity to secure our water future. Join a phone bank and see our Action Alert to encourage your social circles to VOTE YES ON W.

 

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Get informed:

Frequently asked questions about Measure W:

Q: Why does L.A. County need the Safe, Clean Water Program?
We live in a water-scarce area. Forces outside of our control can threaten our local water resources, including lakes, rivers and beaches. L.A. County residents rely heavily on imported water – as much as two-thirds of our water is imported from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, Owens River, Arizona, and the Colorado River – hundreds of miles away.

Climate change is causing more and more extreme weather conditions, making these remote sources more unreliable. The impacts of the recent five year drought were widely felt here.

Rainfall is an essential, local source of L.A.’s water. Rain runs through local rivers, creeks
and streams and can be absorbed into the ground, replenishing our local groundwater supply. However, because so much of our region is paved over, when we do experience heavy rain, too much of that precious water is lost to the ocean before we can capture and clean it for use.

Our local water resources are also threatened by contaminants and pollution as
stormwater runs over streets and over paved areas into our rivers, creeks and streams. Pollution flows onto our beaches and into the ocean, posing a risk to public health risk and marine life.

Q: Is clean water normally scarce in the L.A. region or did the recent drought
cause a water shortage?
Even in years with normal rainfall, L.A. County is a water-scarce region. The recent five year drought put even more stress on our local water resources and made our regular situation dramatically worse. As climate change causes more weather extremes like the drought, we need to take significant steps now to protect and improve our local water resources.

Q: I know the drought was seriously harmful for our local water supply, but
didn’t the heavy rains last winter make up for it?
Unfortunately, no. When we do experience heavy rains, like this past winter, our existing stormwater system can only capture a fraction of that rainfall. Each year, L.A. County loses over 100 billion gallons of water – enough to meet the needs of more than 3 million people annually.

 

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In addition to missing the opportunity to capture, clean and save more water, stormwater runoff picks up toxins from parking lots, streets and other developed areas and carries them into our rivers, lakes, streams and eventually our ocean. As extreme weather conditions become the new normal, we need a system that can capture more local rainfall, and clean and save it for future use.

Q: Do we capture and store rain already when we experience storms? How
much rainwater can we capture and store now?
Right now, L.A. County captures and stores enough rain each year to meet the needs of
approximately 1 million locals – about 10 percent of our county’s population.

Existing dams in the front range of the San Gabriel Mountains capture rainfall and stormwater that is conveyed to a network of “spreading grounds” – shallow and deep basins that have a sandy, gravelly, and/or cobbled bottom that allows water to pass into the ground, naturally filtering it along the way. The spreading grounds work in conjunction with the dams to capture as much water as possible to minimize the amount that flows to the ocean. Eventually, this water gets pumped into a water treatment and distribution system for us to use.

Unfortunately, our current system can’t capture all the rainfall we get. A major opportunity for a more reliable local water supply is capturing more rainfall, which we can store underground, clean, and re-use.

Q: How much more water could we be saving for our region?
With the Measure W investment, we could as much as triple the amount of rain we capture, preserving enough water to meet the needs of nearly 1/3 of Los Angeles County community, ensuring our region can see benefits from erratic and intense rain events.

Q: What funding exists for these important projects?
While some types of water supply projects are supported by reliable revenue, like regular rates, there is no dedicated funding source for stormwater projects.

Q: Can we count on the federal government to protect our beaches and water resources?
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Clean Water Act have
historically been key in establishing stringent water quality standards; however, they provide minimal funding. Today, it’s more important than ever for our County leadership to take action to improve local water resources for L.A. County residents.

Q: How is L.A. County helping to solve these challenges?
There are smart solutions to help address the challenges we face when it comes to protecting and improving our local water resources, our beaches, rivers, creeks andstreams. L.A. County and the Los Angeles County Flood Control District have developed a program – the Safe, Clean Water Program – based on modern science, technology and nature-based solutions to:

  • Keep toxins and trash from washing into local lakes, rivers, streams, beaches and the ocean
  • Take advantage of less regular, more intense rainstorms in order to save more rainfall and clean it for use, which would mitigate the impact of drought and also protect public health
  • Increase community protections against extreme weather patterns and climate change while adding natural areas, shade and green space to enjoy

Q: What would the L.A. County Safe, Clean Water Program do?
If we are able to get out the vote and pass Measure W in L.S. County this November, the Safe, Clean Water Program would fund stormwater capture projects and programs that improve water quality; increase water supply; and invest in communities by developing a skilled local work force, greening schools, parks and wetlands, and increasing public access to natural areas like rivers, lakes, and streams.The Program would fund the construction and maintenance of projects that:

  • Protect public health by cleaning stormwater pollution and contamination
  • Safeguard marine and other wildlife from trash and toxins in stormwater runoff
  • Mitigate severe drought impacts by increasing local water supply
  • Update our local water infrastructure to capture and treat stormwater
  • Help cities meet their Clean Water Act obligation to clean stormwater

The program would prioritize projects that use nature-based solutions to capture, clean, and conserve stormwater, which can beautify communities while improving our resilience against extreme weather patterns of drought and heavy storms.

Q: What types of projects would the Safe, Clean Water Program Fund?
The Safe, Clean Water Program would fund a suite of project types that capture, clean, and conserve stormwater, from regional projects that benefit entire watersheds, to small local projects in communities. Some example project types include large wetland projects, enhancement of spreading grounds to capture water, water infiltration galleries under parks or other open space, or other “low impact development” that uses greening to capture and treat stormwater.

The best way to capture more water is to rely on natural areas, like streambeds, grassy parks, grassy fields at schools and other non-paved areas. These areas absorb rain naturally and refill our underground reserves.

One of the most exciting parts of the Safe, Clean Water Program is that the projects would use this strategy to not only capture more rain, but to also increase shade, parkland and natural areas for people and wildlife in our area in the process. See conceptual examples of projects that the Safe, Clean Water Program may fund.

Q: Would the Safe, Clean Water Program fund any programs?
Yes! In addition to projects on the ground, the Safe, Clean Water Program would also
fund a variety of educational and capacity-building programs for the region, which may include: local workforce job training; curriculum for schools; and public education on stormwater.

Q: How would the Safe, Clean Water Program be funded, and what would it cost me?
The L.A. County Department of Public Works has analyzed costs and funding
mechanisms to support critical rainwater capture and water quality projects in our region, and is proposing that the L.A. County Flood Control District levy a special parcel tax based on impermeable surface area (paved or built areas where water cannot infiltrate, and instead runs off as stormwater).

The modest tax would be levied on private properties in cities and unincorporated areas located within the L.A. County Flood Control District. The ultimate cost of the tax per parcel would be based on total area of impermeable surface on each property. An appeals process would be available for any properties that believe their tax amount has been incorrectly calculated. Currently under discussion are options for crediting those who are already capturing stormwater, and incentivizing others who want to do more. Calculate your estimated parcel tax.

Q: How much money would the Safe, Clean Water Program raise, and how
would the money be spent?
The Safe, Clean Water Program would aim to raise about $300 million per year to
implement needed stormwater capture projects. 90% of the total revenues collected for
the Safe Clean Water Program – currently aimed to be roughly $270 million – would be
available as a funding source to municipalities and communities.

All tax revenues generated for the Safe, Clean Water Program would be allocated as
follows:

  • 40% to a Municipal Program that would return funds directly to cities and
    municipalities for projects that improve water quality and provide additional
    benefits
  • 50% to a Regional Program that would fund watershed-based projects with
    regional benefits including increased water supply and stormwater pollution
    reduction
  • 10% to a District Program for local workforce training, development and
    implementation of educational programs, and for overall Program administration

Q: What is the Municipal Program, and what would it fund?
40% of revenues from the Safe, Clean Water Program would be returned directly to cities and unincorporated areas in the L.A. County Flood Control District proportionate to what each municipality is contributing toward the Program. Projects would be required to at least have a water quality benefit, and are encouraged to have additional benefits, including greening of schools, creation of parks and wetlands, or increased water supply.

The intent of the Municipal Program is to provide flexibility and local control so that funds can go toward those projects and programs each local government thinks best address local stormwater challenges and opportunities. Notably, cities and municipalities can use up to 30% of their local return revenues to pay for operations and maintenance of projects that existed prior to the commencement of the Safe, Clean Water Program, and related activities.

Q: What is the Regional Program, and what would it fund?
50% of revenues from the Safe, Clean Water Program would fund watershed-based
projects that provide regional benefits, including stormwater pollution reduction,
increased water supply, and investments in communities on the ground.

The majority of funding for the Regional Program would go toward regional and small scale capital improvement projects – new infrastructure. A portion of these funds would be made available for scientific studies and technical assistance.

The Regional Program funds would be distributed to 9 identified “Watershed Areas” in
the L.A. County Flood Control District in proportion to the revenue collected in that area. The Program would include provisions ensuring that investments are made in underserved and low-income areas for the implementation of projects that would provide clean water benefits for all.

 

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Q: What is the District Program, and what would it fund?
10% of revenues from the Safe, Clean Water Program would fund: coordination of
stormwater education and capacity-building programs; provision of regional leadership and coordination for water quality planning and modeling; implementation of multi-benefit projects; and overall administration of the Safe, Clean Water Program.

Q: Who would decide how to spend Safe, Clean Water funds?
Municipal, Regional, and District funds will be administered differently, as follows:

  • Municipal Program: Each city and unincorporated area in the L.A. County Flood Control District would have control to allocate funds returned to them in the manner that they believe best meets Program goals
  • Regional Program: Stakeholder committees for the 9 identified “Watershed Areas” in the L.A. County Flood Control District would identify projects, and relay them to a regional oversight committee to make a final recommendation for affirmation by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors
  • District Program: The L.A. County Flood Control District would determine how to use these funds to administer programs, studies, and the Program as a whole

Oversight measures, reporting, and auditing procedures would be in place for each of
these programs to ensure that Program funds are being used in the most beneficial ways possible.

Q: Who would be eligible to apply for funding?
The Safe, Clean Water Program has very broad applicant eligibility to increase access to funding. Any individual, group, special district, school, municipality, non-governmental organization (NGO), non-profit organization, community based organization (CBO), public utility, federally recognized Indian tribes, state Indian tribes listed on Native American Heritage Steering Committee’s California Tribal Consultation List, mutual water company, or other entities that submits a project for consideration would be eligible to receive funding through the Safe, Clean Water Program.

Q: Would schools benefit from the Safe, Clean Water Program?
Yes, schools would be eligible to apply for funding to implement projects. They also
would be valuable partners for developing projects with other entities.
Public school districts would not be taxed under the potential funding measure.

Q: How is the County going to take advantage of other existing funding
sources for this program?
L.A. County and the Los Angeles County Flood Control District are working to identify
funding and opportunities to share costs with other agencies. Several cities in the County are investing limited funds in stormwater capture and re-use plans, and the L.A. County Safe, Clean Water Program would help unify these efforts and maximize resources to support safe, clean local water resources for all L.A. County residents.

Q: Who would oversee the Program and spending?
Oversight mechanisms are critical to ensure that Program funds are being spent
responsibly and that benefits are realized throughout the region over time. Each of the funding recipients within the Municipal, Regional, and District will be required to undergo an independent audit every 5 years.

Q: Is anyone exempt from paying for the Safe, Clean Water Program?
The Program proposes to exempt low-income senior citizens. Public properties, like
public schools, would be constitutionally exempt from the proposed parcel tax.

Q: When will money from the Safe, Clean Water Program be available for projects?
Immediately after the potential voter approval of Measure W, the process for evaluating and soliciting regional projects begins. As part of the Municipal Programs, cities could start receiving funds for local stormwater capture projects and programs as early as Winter 2020.

Q: What are the primary outcomes the Safe, Clean Water Program would likely achieve?
The Safe, Clean Water Program would result in a series of outcomes, including:

  • Meaningful improvements in water quality
  • Meaningful increases in local water supply
  • Community investments, including greening of streets and schools, and improved access to rivers, lakes, and streams
  • Improved collaboration with stakeholders to consider and implement projects and programs that offer the greatest potential for significant impact
  • Tangible benefits in communities throughout the region

Q: Would the Safe, Clean Water Program help our cities comply with current State and federal water quality standards?
Investing in local water quality is a priority for the L.A. County Board of Supervisors. The L.A. County Board of Supervisors wants to ensure that any funds spent through the Safe, Clean Water Program help our area meet standards for clean water, while also addressing other regional priorities, such as adequately protecting the region against impacts of future droughts, improving the resilience of our water system, and delivering tangible benefits to our communities.

Q: Would the Safe, Clean Water Program be better for public health?
Yes. It’s no secret that dirty water from heavy storms results in beach closures following heavy rain in Los Angeles, because of threats to public health. By using smart, nature-based solutions, we could capture more runoff and filter out harmful toxins and pollutants. In the process of capturing and cleaning stormwater, projects in the Safe, Clean Water Program would add more green space, further supporting healthier communities.

Q: How would the Safe, Clean Water Program help low-income and
underserved communities?
Providing benefits to low-income and underserved communities is a priority for the Safe, Clean Water Program. There are many ways the Program will prioritize funding to disadvantaged communities, including: funding available for small-scale or community projects; priority consideration for projects benefitting disadvantaged communities or with strong community support; involvement of stakeholders and community groups in decision-making on funding priorities; funding available for technical assistance and feasibility studies, and funding stormwater education programs.

Through these avenues, the Safe, Clean Water Program hopes to provide equitable access to Program funds, as well as receipt of Program benefits.

Q: Would the Safe, Clean Water Program benefit marine life?
Absolutely. Each year, marine mammals, seabirds, and fish die, either from mistakenly
eating plastic garbage and other harmful contaminants, or ensnaring themselves.

Annually, over 4,000 tons of trash is found on L.A. County beaches. By preventing stormwater runoff from carrying tons of trash and contaminants out to sea, we can better protect marine life.


See our Action Alert: healthebay.org/yesonw

Learn more about Measure W on the November 6, 2018 ballot in Los Angeles County: 



Talia Walsh, Heal the Bay communications associate director, shares this year’s preliminary list of beach trash finds in Los Angeles, California.

Coastal Cleanup Day is an annual community volunteering effort that reveals insights about the nature of ocean pollution. The 2018 Coastal Cleanup Day event in L.A. County brought together 13,464 individuals who removed over 29.8 tons of ocean-bound trash from 78 cleanup sites in 3 hours. These piles of trash tell a compelling story.

Gleaning early results reported anecdotally by Heal the Bay’s cleanup captains and volunteers, here are this year’s most common — and weirdest — hand-picked beach trash finds in L.A.:

Beach Trash Finds in Emoji:

  1. 🥤 Plastics:  Single-use drink & food containers, Polystyrene, Tiny plastic pieces
  2. 🚬 Smoking-Related:  Cigarette butts, Lighters, Cannabis packaging
  3. ♻️ Recyclables: Glass, Paper, Metal
  4. 💉 Medical and Hygiene:  Syringes, Condoms, Diapers
  5. 💩 Feces:  Humans, Pets, Unknown
  6. 💊 Drugs:  Pipes, Powders, Pills
  7. 🎣 Fishing Gear: Traps, Hooks, Nets
  8. 🚗 Automobile Parts:  Frames, Engines, Tires
  9. 📱 Lost & Found:  Wedding Rings, Watches, Phones
  10. 👟 Shoes:  Sandals, Sneakers, Wedges
  11. 🏄🏻 Broken Boards: Surfboards, Paddleboards, Boogie boards
  12. 💼 Suitcases: Wardrobe change, please!
  13. 🔋 e-Waste: Cords, Parts, Batteries
  14.  🗡️ Weapons: Bullets, Shivs, Knives
  15. 🛴 Electric Scooters: Underwater e-scooter hunt, anyone?

Looking at the above list, it seems we need to rapidly evolve our manner of thinking about product design and usability to combat rising ocean pollution. Here are some ways to start getting involved locally:

Coastal Cleanup Day is one of 735 cleanups Heal the Bay hosts a year. Check out our Marine Debris Database that houses information for 4 million pieces of trash collected by Heal the Bay volunteers in Los Angeles County. See the latest water quality updates for your favorite beach by installing our new Beach Report Card app for iOS or Android — and — visit the website at beachreportcard.org for the latest grades.


View L.A. County’s results from Coastal Cleanup Day 2018


View California’s results from Coastal Cleanup Day 2018


Take Part

Check out our next beach cleanup in L.A. County! Stay tuned for the full International Report for Coastal Cleanup Day to be released in the coming months. And sign up to receive a Registration Alert for Coastal Cleanup Day 2019.

 



As Strawless Summer comes to a close, Heal the Bay would like to thank all of our partners and community advocates 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 an estimated 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.

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“No straw, thank you”.

This simple statement, echoed by 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 straws-upon-request movement and launched the Strawless Summer campaign to raise awareness and reduce unneccessary plastic straw usage 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.

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Did people totally freak out? No. Was it easy to implement? Yes. Did it earn the businesses major goodwill with some 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. If folks needed a plastic straw, they could have access to one. But for folks who didn’t need or want them, the single-use plastic straw was absent from the table.

“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.

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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 single-use plastic pollution, including advancing safe alternatives to single-use 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 to increase.

Learn more about the benefits of skipping the straw 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).

Our Strawless Summer 2017 campaign would not be possible without these local 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/