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Heal the Bay Blog

Category: Los Angeles Stormwater

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made history last November when voters overwhelmingly approved Measure W (the Safe, Clean Water Program) to revamp our outdated stormwater system!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.

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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!



Taking L.A. By Storm

We helped lead the charge to pass Measure W in the November election, securing funds for a lattice of stormwater-capture parks throughout L.A. County. Instead of flowing uselessly to pollute the sea, 100 billion gallons of runoff will be captured and reused each year.

California Doesn’t Suck

On the heels of our “Strawless Summer” campaign, Gov. Brown signed into law a measure that requires restaurants to provide straws on a request-only basis. The move will keep tons of plastic out of our beleaguered oceans and beaches.

A River Runs Through It

In response to our ground-breaking study of polluted spots in the L.A. River’s recreational zones, the City of Los Angeles established a new monitoring and notification protocol to protect public health on the revitalized waterway.

A Clean Break for Malibu

After years of steady pressure from Heal the Bay, the city of Malibu opened its Civic Wastewater Treatment Facility. Some of the state’s most iconic — and historically polluted — beaches will be a whole lot cleaner.

Youth Is Served

Our entire staff hosted 600 students from under-served elementary schools for our annual Education Day, a care-free morning of marine exploration at our Aquarium and on the sand.  Each year we inspire more than 15,000 students, many of whom have never been to the beach!



All political ads and posts are paid for by Heal the Bay and L.A. Waterkeeper.

Environmental groups face two challenges getting attention during election season – limited funds and limited attention spans.

It hasn’t been easy rallying the electorate for Measure W, the countywide initiative to raise $300 million for increased stormwater capture in greater L.A. Voters will decide on the measure on Tuesday.

Building a lattice of nature-based facilities across the Southland could reap billions of gallons of runoff for reuse each year. Engineers think they can harvest enough runoff to meet the water needs of 2.5 million Angelenos. That’s about a quarter of L.A. County’s population.

It’s a critical first step in ditching our outdated Mulholland-era system of water management, in which we import 70% of our water and then send much of it uselessly to the sea each day.

But let’s face it, most voters tune out when you mention the word stormwater. Infrastructure isn’t sexy.

And Heal the Bay can’t compete with industry lobbyists who spend millions to jam airwaves with ads for narrowly focused initiatives. (Is paying for dialysis really the most pressing  issue in California today?)

So what’s an earnest nonprofit to do when it wants to cut through all the clutter?

Get creative.

Heal the Bay has tapped an amazing cadre of talent over the years at L.A.’s leading advertising, marketing, communications and design companies. With hat in hand, we’ve wheedled great work out of great minds. (Did you know that Chiat Day designed our now famous fishbones logo for free?)

Our strategy has been to find the surfers at an agency. It’s not hard to do – why do you think there are so many aspirational commercials these days of bearded hipsters loading their boards into their hybrid cars?

So when tasked by a coalition of L.A.’s leading environmental, labor and social justice groups to raise Measure W’s voice amid the mid-term noise, I turned to my neighbor and Bay Street surf buddy – Kevin McCarthy.

A longtime creative director, Kevin is the force behind such Heal the Bay hits as the “Drains to the Ocean” stencils spray-painted across L.A. sidewalks. He and his team also assembled the Jeremy Irons-narrated mockumentary “The Majestic Plastic Bag,” a viral hit that has been seen 2.5 million times and helped spur the statewide ban on single-use bags.

For Measure W, he assembled a creative coalition-of-the-willing to develop “sticky” public engagements, such as a “Haunted Storm Drain” tour during Halloween festivities at our Santa Monica Pier Aquarium and a makeshift “parklet” that popped-up on a busy DTLA street during lunchtime.

But he saved his best trick for last: doing some grass-roots marketing along the L.A. River.

Literally.

Last month, Kevin sent me a mock-up of a stunt to use live sod to spell out SAVE THE RAIN, SAVE L.A., VOTE YES ON W along the banks of the L.A. River.

The idea is brilliant in its simplicity and audacity. The L.A. River is the poster child for how we waste water. Each day its concrete channels funnel millions of gallons of usable water into the Pacific.

The River is also the perfect canvas for L.A.’s graffiti crews, whose work gets maximum visibility from car and train traffic that goes by its banks. Instead of spray paint, we’d use Mother Nature to spread the word. With our grass graffiti, we’d embody the very spirit of Measure W – turning concrete into green space. The medium would be the message!

Last week we quietly secured the necessary permits from FilmLA, which cut red-tape among the entities that claim jurisdiction over the River.

The installation took place Monday morning near the intersections of the 110 and 5 freeways. The site afford views for morning commuters over nearby bridges, as well as for Metro and Amtrak train riders.

As dawn broke, our stunt crew drove down a hidden driveway onto the river floor and set up camp. As a landscape designer, my wife Erin had secured beds of sod at a discounted rate. Crack landscape contractor Robert Herrera and his crew measured, cut and placed the grass in stencils laid out by Kevin and a few of our staff.

After two hours of hauling the heavy sod up the steep banks, our tired team stood on the edge of the river to examine our handiwork. Passers-by on the trains waved to us, filling us with satisfaction.

While the stunt paid off in real-time, we knew the real dividends would come with media coverage and social-sharing.

Top-rated KTLA Morning News sent a news crew to cover the installation. Partner L.A. Waterkeeper organized our expert video team – Will Durland, Lindsey Jurca, Ben Dolenc and Tyler Haggstrom. They shot drone footage as well as capturing time-lapse images. An edited package is now being shared with press and social media channels.

I know I’m biased, but the videos are stunning.

We’ll also share powerful video testimonials from some Angelenos whose lives and livelihoods depend on water: celebrity chef Raphael Lunetta, Golden Road Brewing co-founder Meg Gill, and L.A. County Fire Department Capt. Greg Rachal (who moonlights as president of the Black Surfers Assn.)

Lindsey and Will — a professional and domestic couple — assembled these evocative mini-films. Lindsey works for sister org and sometimes competitor Los Angeles Waterkeeper. She twisted Will’s arm to pitch in during a break from his regular professional work (“Survivor”). It’s been fun to collaborate with such passionate and committed creatives.

One post-script: No grass was harmed in the filming of this movie! My wife found a youth center to pick up the sod letters at the end of the day. The grass has a new home and is being put to good use in a recreational area.

After all, plant-life  – like water – is a terrible thing to waste.

Matthew King serves as communications director for Heal the Bay.

Political Disclosure: Heal the Bay and L.A. Waterkeeper paid for all materials and staff time for installation and filming. 

photo credits — top: Will Durland; drone: Tyler Haggstrom

 



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



This November, voters in L.A. County will decide whether to approve Measure W, a public funding measure to capture, treat and reuse stormwater throughout the region. Through a modest parcel tax, $300 million in funds would be made available for cities to build a lattice of nature-based projects throughout the region, such as green streets, wetlands and parks that capture and store rain and runoff. The measure would increase local water supply, improve water quality, provide more open space and reduce trash along our shorelines.

Here, Heal the Bay and our partners L.A. Waterkeeper and Natural Resources Defense Council address many of the misconceptions that have been raised by opponents of this common-sense measure.

MYTH: It hardly ever rains in Southern California. We don’t need to spend millions to capture a few sprinkles each year.

FACT: We can capture and reuse billions of gallons of stormwater and other runoff each year in L.A. County, enough to meet the needs of 2.5 million Angelenos.

In the decades to come, climate change means that greater L.A. will whipsaw from drought to floods to drought. We must use our wet years to ensure we have enough clean water when the dry ones come. Even on the driest day in August, tens of millions of gallons of runoff flow to the sea each day. During a single storm, up to 10 billion gallons of this liquid gold runs through our stormdrains and into the ocean. We need to capture, clean and reuse water – every drop, every day of the year.

MYTH: We’ve got enough water right now. We’ve got bigger problems to fix.

FACT: We take water for granted – at our own peril. 

With climate change worsening, extended periods of drought in our region are a given. We’ve got to stop importing 70% of our water at great cost and expense of fossil fuels. It’s just not smart. We now have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to replumb our region and source more water locally. Water is the lifeblood of our city. Let’s not waste it.

MYTH: This sounds like a good idea. But we simply can’t afford it right now.

FACT: The measure will pay dividends for years to come, saving taxpayers money in the long run. The average property owner would pay $83 a year to improve water quality and boost water supply.

With our current system, we are literally pouring water – and money – down the drain each day. This measure will provide a smart return-on-investment in four specific areas:

  • Enhanced public health: Hundreds of thousands of beachgoers each year get sick from swimming in runoff-polluted beaches in L.A. County each year, at a cost of nearly $200 million.
  • Reduced regulatory costs:  L.A. County is on the hook for an estimated $24 billion over the next two decades to meet strict water quality mandates set by the State Water Control Board.
  • Lower water costs: Importing water from up north is expensive and unreliable – and it only will get worse as climate change takes hold.
  • Improved economy: Dirty beaches, trashy rivers and polluted water are not conducive to tourism; we need to protect the value of greater L.A.’s $16 billion coastal economy.

MYTH: No one knows where the money will actually go. It will disappear into a rabbit hole in the General Fund.

FACT: Some 455 specific projects have already been identified by cities to help green L.A.

Some of the region’s best engineers have devised these multi-benefit infrastructure projects as part of watershed management plans that L.A. County cities must implement as a part of their stormwater permit. These projects have been approved not only by local cities, but by our regulatory agencies. We have the data-driven blueprints; now we need the funding to turn smart vision into reality.

MYTH: This is yet another financial burden on low-income communities and seniors on fixed incomes.

FACT: Low-income senior citizens would qualify for exemption from the Measure W parcel tax.

Low-income communities face the same penalties for not complying with the federal Clean Water Act, but they lack the resources to meet requirements.  Measure W provides funding for small-scale or community projects, for technical assistance and for stormwater education programs. Priority will be given to projects that benefit disadvantaged communities to assist in reaching compliance and avoiding federal fines.

MYTH: The measure penalizes property owners who have already made improvements capture rain or reduce runoff on their parcels.

FACT: Measure W includes a credit program for those who have already reduced runoff on their property (or commit to do so).

If you already installed a cistern that captures runoff from your roof, your roof no longer counts as a taxable impervious surface, and your tax estimate will go down. If you installed stormwater capture projects that eliminate runoff from your property entirely, and capture additional runoff from your neighborhood, you may receive a tax credit up to 100% of your original tax estimate.

MYTH: There is no mechanism to make sure the money is spent correctly.

FACT: A citizens oversight committee will provide transparency and accountability.

Each city will be given flexibility in spending the 40% of funds raised that go back to municipalities, while annual reporting and audit requirements will ensure it is spent responsibly on appropriate projects. The 50% of funding going to regional projects is awarded competitively and has even more stringent requirements to ensure responsible spending. Five separate committees will ensure that funding is given to projects that meet required criteria and that there is a 110% benefit return to disadvantaged communities. Spaces are reserved on the Watershed Area Steering Committee for a wide array of stakeholders, including community, environmental and business voices.

MYTH: We would all pay this tax, but it will only benefit a few people in certain areas.

FACT: All communities in greater L.A. will benefit from Measure W.

The measure will fund a wide range of project types and sizes, from neighborhood to regional in scale. The program allocates funds to areas in proportion to the taxes generated in that area. The combination of municipal programs (40% of tax revenue), regional projects (50% of tax revenue — with 110% benefit return to disadvantaged communities), and a requirement for a range of projects sizes will provide an equitable distribution of funds and an equitable distribution of benefits.

MYTH: This is a forever tax, with no “sunset clause.”

FACT: The Board of Supervisors can eliminate the funding measure in 30 years.

The tax is set at 2.5 cents per square foot of impervious surface on a given parcel. That price will never increase with inflation, which means that its value (and relative cost to the taxpayer) will decrease over time. After 30 years, property owners will pay the equivalent of approximately 1 cent per square foot, at which time the tax will be up for review by the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors. By this time, operations and maintenance will account for the vast majority of spending, so that cities do not have to dip into their general fund to keep these projects going for years to come.

MYTH: Green projects cannot reduce flood risk as well as gray infrastructure like concrete stormdrains and channelized rivers.

FACT: Nature works.

Many cities around the world are using nature-based projects to capture stormwater. Many of these initial projects are showing that green streets, wetlands and infiltration parks do reduce flood risk, while also providing many other benefits to its community. Portland, Ore., and Philadelphia are already using green solutions to meet the challenges in their rain-intensive communities, such as flooding and erosion. Here in L.A. County, the Elmer Avenue Neighborhood project has dramatically reduced flooding along streets used by residents and local school children.

MYTH: The taxing of individual property owner’s permeable surface is an arbitrary and unfair method for addressing the region’s stormwater issues.

FACT: A parcel tax is the fairest way for addressing the problem of stormwater runoff.

Fees based on the amount of impermeable surfaces make sense because they correlate directly to the source of polluted runoff. Property owners can implement project that capture their stormwater on-site to reduce their tax burden. The average parcel tax is estimated at $83, but property owners can go to a County website to determine their annual assessment. They can also appeal if they think their parcel tax is determined inaccurately.



A word to the wise: Avoid water contact at Los Angeles County beaches for at least 72 hours, following last night’s surprise storm.

All that lightning provided a beautiful show, but the accompanying rain did a number on our beaches.

The county’s 2,800-mile storm-drain system is designed to channel rainwater to the ocean to prevent local flooding. But it also carries tons of trash and bacteria-laden runoff directly into the Santa Monica and San Pedro bays following stormy weather.

A single major storm can send 10 billion gallons of water into our bays!

There’s another equally disturbing aspect to the runoff – it’s a huge waste of a precious resource.

Los Angeles imports costly and increasingly scarce water from Northern California and the Colorado River. We now import more than 80% of our water, using enormous amounts of energy and capital to do so.

Stormwater — if held, filtered and cleansed naturally in groundwater basins — could provide a safe, more secure and less costly source of drinking water. If L.A. County voters approve Measure W in next month’s election, the county’s Public Works Department would receive $300 million to build multi-benefit stormwater capture projects throughout the region.

The modest parcel tax would create a lattice of parks, green streets and wetlands throughout the region. Instead of sending runoff uselessly to the sea, the projects would capture and clean more than 100 billion gallons of water for reuse throughout the region. That’s enough to meet the water needs of 2.5 million Angelenos each year.

“It’s depressing to see all the waste on our shorelines after a big storm,” said Shelley Luce, president of Heal the Bay. “But it’s just as depressing to think about all that rainwater we are wasting. By approving Measure W, voters can turn a nuisance into a resource. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity and we need to seize it.”

More than 70 major outfalls spew manmade debris, animal waste, pesticides, automotive fluids and human-gastrointestinal viruses into the marine ecosystem after storms. This pollution poses human health risks, harms marine life and dampens the tourist economy by littering shorelines.

During the rainy season, Heal the Bay reminds residents that they can take steps in their own home to take pressure off an already taxed stormdrain system. Among them: keep trash out of gutters and stormdrains, dispose of animal waste and automotive fluids properly, and limiting runoff by curtailing such wasteful practices as hosing driveways and overwatering landscapes.



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: 



stormwater in los angeles county heal the bay

 

1. MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD

Attend the Public Hearing

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will decide July 17 (formerly July 10) whether to place a public funding measure (The Safe, Clean Water Program) on the November ballot to increase stormwater capture throughout our region.

The measure would raise $300 million for such nature-based water quality amenities as green streets, multi-benefit parks and revitalized wetlands.

We are going to turn greater L.A. into a sponge, harvesting billions of gallons of rain for reuse instead of sending it uselessly to the sea!  There are dozens of reasons to support increased capture of rainwater and other urban runoff.

These projects would:

  • Keep harmful bacteria and trash from ruining your favorite beaches.
  • Protect the animals that call the Bay home from gross runoff and plastic pollution.
  • Provide a supply of reliable and locally sourced water as climate change worsens. 

We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rethink L.A.’s outdated water model and better prepare for an increasingly arid future.  

We need YOU to attend the public hearing with us on July 17, 2018 to encourage the Board to place this water-saving measure on the ballot. RSVP here, and wear your favorite blue shirt to show your support!

 


 

2. CONTACT YOUR ELECTED SUPERVISOR

Send a Tweet

If you can’t make it to the public hearing in person, you can still take action! If you live in greater Los Angeles, please contact your supervisor to show your support during this critical time:

Look up your district by your zip code.

Then, find your district’s elected Supervisor:

  • First District: Hilda L. Solis
  • Second District: Mark Ridley-Thomas
  • Third District: Sheila Kuehl
  • Fourth District: Janice Hahn
  • Fifth District: Kathryn Barger

Next, call or email your Supervisor:

“My name is (your name), from (city) and (zip code). I stand with Heal the Bay and the OurWaterLA coalition in full support of The Safe, Clean Water Program, which could raise $300 Million every year for nature-based stormwater capture projects. I hope we can count on you, to vote YES at the Public Hearing on July 17th, in support of this important measure.”

First District: Hilda L. Solis
Phone: 213-974-4111
Email: firstdistrict@bos.lacounty.gov

Second District: Mark Ridley-Thomas
Phone: 213-974-2222
Email: markridley-thomas@bos.lacounty.gov

Third District: Sheila Kuehl
Phone: 213-974-3333
Email: sheila@bos.lacounty.gov

Fourth District: Janice Hahn
Phone: 213-974-4444
Email: fourthdistrict@bos.lacounty.gov

Fifth District: Kathryn Barger
Phone: 213-974-5555
Email: kathryn@bos.lacounty.gov

Finally, send a Tweet to your Supervisor:

Please vote YES on The Safe, Clean Water Program, a public funding measure for nature-based water quality projects in L.A. County #OurWaterLA @SheilaKuehl @mridleythomas @HildaSolis @SupJaniceHahn @kathrynbarger

 


 

3. GET THE FACTS

Add Your Name to Our Petition

The Safe, Clean Water Program treats runoff as a resource—not a nuisance. Watch Meredith McCarthy, Interim Operations Director at Heal the Bay, explain why we need to save more stormwater in L.A.

OurWaterLA, a coalition of leading environmental, labor and social justice organizations, is united behind The Safe, Clean Water Program. See our joint letter to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors:

 



¿Sabían que 86% del agua de Los Ángeles es importada de otras áreas? Esto significa que el agua cual toma, usa para bañarse, e incluso usa para regar sus plantas, no es agua local.

Los Ángeles enfrenta grandes desafíos para garantizar el subministro de agua para los 4 millones habitantes de la ciudad.

Siendo una de las ciudades más grandes del mundo, todavía esperamos que alrededor de 500 mil personas lleguen a Los Ángeles en los próximos años. El crecimiento de nuestra población nos presentara nuevas oportunidades de desarrollo, pero también nuevos obstáculos.

Para asegurar un futuro próspero, debemos proteger lo que hace nuestra ciudad grandiosa: nuestro ambiente natural, nuestra economía diversa, y nuestros residentes cual ayudan al avance de la ciudad. Nuestra creatividad entretiene e inspira al resto del mundo, y por eso tenemos que asegurar que las futuras generaciones también puedan disfrutar de un espacio saludable y económicamente prospero que además sea ambientalmente sustentable.

#OURWATERLA

¿Que es el Ciclo del Agua?

Con los recientes cambios climáticos, obteniendo agua para Los Ángeles se ha vuelto más complicado. Para entender el flujo de agua en Los Ángeles, primero se debe entender el ciclo de agua del planeta.

Durante millones de años el planeta ha hecho circular el agua acabo del ciclo del agua. El ciclo empieza cuando el sol calienta el océano y causa la evaporación del agua. Las moléculas de agua se condensan en formas de nubes y finalmente caen del cielo en forma de nieve o lluvia. El suelo absorbe casi toda el agua y la filtra atraves de capas de tierra y rocas para reponer el agua subterránea y el resto del agua fluye a los ríos y arroyos cual regresa el agua al océano para que empiece el ciclo otra vez.

Desafío en Los Ángeles

Los sistemas de alcantarillados pluviales de Los Ángeles están diseñados para mover el agua de las calles, lotes de estacionamientos y techos hacia el océano para evitar inundaciones.  En un día típico de lluvia en Los Ángeles un promedio de 10 billones de agua—equivalente a 120 Rose Bowls—fluye por los alcantarillados pluviales recolectando basura y bacteria, cual es depositada directamente al océano. Esta es la causa principal de la contaminación marina en nuestro océano y también es una perdida enorme de agua dulce para nuestra región.

Los Ángeles: La Ciudad Esponja

Presentemente, la ciudad de Los Ángeles tiene más de un billón de agua subterránea almacenada en la región, pero solo 12% del agua para consumo humano viene del agua subterránea local. Debido a la contaminación de la cuenca de San Fernando solo se puede usar la mitad de la cuenca para abastecernos. Con planes de construir el centro de tratamiento de agua subterránea más grande del mundo, la ciudad de Los Ángeles planea limpiar las aguas contaminadas.

El gobierno local ha pedido una reducción del 50% de agua importada para el año 2025 y que 50% del agua sea local para el año 2035.

¿Cómo vamos a lograr estos cambios? La respuesta es simple: Capturando, Conservando, y Reutilizando. Nuestros líderes deben invertir en una construcción de obras públicas cual capture, limpie, filtre y recicle el agua que ya tenemos. Debemos absorber el agua cual es proveída por nuestro planeta y usarla para el sostenimiento de nuestra ciudad.

Vean más información del plan de la Ciudad de Los Ángeles.

This article is part of the blog series, “Heal the Bay en Español” for our Spanish-speaking community. If you are interested in learning more about this topic in English, view more info on Los Angeles Stormwater and follow the #OurWaterLA hashtag on social media.



Since 1985, we’ve partnered with people like you – volunteers, donors and advocates — to make Southern California safer, healthier and cleaner. And 2018 will prove no different.

As another year closes we’ve been reflecting on all our wins in 2017. But now we look ahead to this New Year. We’ll be hosting cleanups, educating kids at our Aquarium and monitoring beaches and watersheds statewide as we do year in and year out. We’ve got bigger plans, too.

Here’s a snapshot look at our Big Three policy goals in 2018, encompassing our three impact pillars – Thriving Oceans, Healthy Watersheds and Smart Water.

1. Parting With Polystyrene

polystyrene ban

Action Item: Enact a ban on polystyrene food and drink containers in the City and County of Los Angeles.

Following the model that propelled the statewide plastic bag ban in 2014, we are fighting to rid our beaches and neighborhoods of polystyrene trash.

We don’t want to live in a nanny state, with a long list of prohibited items and activities. But sometimes enough is enough. Our volunteers have removed more than 500,000 bits of Styrofoam™ from beaches in L.A. County over the past decade1. These discarded fragments of takeout-food packaging and cups are not only unsightly – they’re also downright dangerous to marine life and our health.

Recycling isn’t the answer, as polystyrene food and drink containers suffer from low quality and value. More than 100 California cities have implemented all-out bans. But we need a statewide solution, as with plastic bags. Sacramento legislators likely won’t act until the state’s biggest city acts.


2. Saving Stormwater

Action Item: Get L.A. County voters to approve a funding measure for stormwater capture projects.

When it rains, we create terrible waste in Southern California. First, billions of gallons of polluted runoff are sent uselessly to the sea. Second, we fail to capture and reuse that water to replenish our depleted aquifers.

We import 80% of our water in L.A. – at great risk and cost. It’s simply madness not to reuse the water that nature provides. The County of L.A. already does a fairly good job of capturing stormwater – about 200,000 acre feet each year. But we need to at least double that amount.

Engineers have created detailed plans for multi-benefit, green projects throughout the county – think smart parks, green streets and the like. We can transform the region from a concrete bowl into a giant sponge. But in a time of tight government budgets, finding the funding is tough. In the November election, voters will decide whether to support a tax to reduce pollution and increase water reliability.


3. Revitalizing the River

Action Item: Advocate for strong water-quality and habitat protections in the County’s upcoming L.A. River Master Plan.

Heal the Bay recently released an eye-opening study of water quality that showed that bacterial pollution continues to plague the L.A. River. Our scientific report demonstrated that popular recreation zones suffer from poor water quality. Fecal bacteria pose health risks for the growing number of people fishing, swimming and kayaking its waters.

We’re excited about all the great things happening on the River these days, spurred by a $1 billion revitalization plan. We love that more Angelenos are getting on the water. We just want to make sure people stay safe and are informed about pollution.


Our work isn’t possible without the real passion, action and commitment from people like you. Help us spark more positive change in our region, up and down the coast, and around the world. Help us hit the ground running this year by making a donation today.

Donate

 

1. Source: Heal the Bay’s Marine Debris Database (12/1/2007-12/1/2017). Heal the Bay’s Marine Debris Database is an online record of trash and other debris that has been picked up by schools, companies, and other volunteers as part of Heal the Bay’s various beach cleanup programs.