Wrapping up our 2023 Heal the Bay Volunteer Season with a look back at our 2022 achievements.
Heal the Bay thrives because of the work and dedication of our amazing volunteers. 2022 was an especially incredible year for our volunteer program as initiatives that were suspended by COVID protocols in 2020 were reenergized by our staff, donors and of course our volunteers!
As we end our 2023 Volunteer Season we take time to reflect on the wins of the year before. Heal the Bay is proud to share all our volunteer accomplishments and achievements in our 2022 Volunteer Impact Report, created by our Volunteer Programs Manager Annie Lopez.
Are you ready to make your impact as a volunteer? Want to help care for animals at the Aquarium? Interested in educating the public on the sand at Beach Cleanups? Ready to help protect precious ecosystems found in Marine Protected Areas? Join us for our LAST Volunteer Orientation of 2023 to learn about all the ways you can help protect what you love!
Plastic pollution is a major problem in Los Angeles because plastic makes up the majority of LA County’s litter, according to a UCLA report commissioned by LA County’s Sustainability Office. LAist recently reported that about 85% of plastic is NOT recycled, “instead, it fills up landfills or ends up in the street and gets flushed into storm drains and ultimately the ocean, causing harmful and deadly consequences to ocean life” (Restaurants In Unincorporated LA County Are Now Banned From Using Plastics, Erin Stone). Consumers are often unaware that when plastic is recycled, thrown away, or improperly put in recycling bins it often ends up in the same place and is always detrimental to the environment.
For several years, Heal the Bay has been working with LA City and County to help create legislation aiming to break the harmful plastic cycle. And finally, there is some hope.
In 2023, THREE new laws are making big waves for the environment, and ultimately, reducing plastic in our oceans. They may sound confusing, but the result is simple, less plastic! Here is Heal the Bay’s quick breakdown of those laws:
Good Riddance to Bad Rubbish
The City of Los Angeles, in accordance with the first phase of the LA Sanitation and Environment (LASAN) Comprehensive Plastics Reduction Program, passed several exciting laws in 2022 to reduce waste and curb plastic pollution in our region. Since then, two of those laws have officially gone into effect as LA takes major steps to reduce single-use plastics.
The LA City law went into effect on April 23, 2023, and asserts that no restaurant or retail store can give, sell, distribute, or offer products made of EPS to any consumer. This includes cups, plates, bowls, takeaway containers, egg cartons, and even ice coolers. The first phase will only impact establishments with more than 26 employees and will expand to include all restaurants and retail establishments in April 2024.
The LA City “plastic bag ban” has been in place for nearly a decade, banning local LA grocery stores from handing out single-use plastic bags and charging ten cents ($0.10) for alternative single-use carryout bags. This law was a means to reduce plastic in the environment and encourage the public to invest in reusable totes bags instead. In 2023, the ban on single-use plastic bags was expanded to large retail stores. Now in effect, retail establishments that employ more than 26 employees should no longer offer flimsy single-use plastic bags to consumers and will offer alternatives or paper bags for a $.10 fee. As of July 2023, all other shops including apparel stores, farmers markets, and food or beverage facilities will join the list of places to ban the bag.
If you suspect your favorite clothing store, watering hole or eatery is unaware of these new rules, let them know! Education is the most important part of creating change in your community. You can also give LA Sanitation a call and let them know, too at 213-485-2260.
LA Countywide Changes
This year has brought a big environmental win to even more places beyond the municipality limits, impacting communities all over Los Angeles County.
Sticking a Fork in the Single-Use Plastic Problem
3) LA County Foodware Ordinance:
In April 2022, LA County celebrated Earth Month with the passage of unprecedented legislation to reduce single-use plastics and curb plastic pollution and it is already being rolled out. As of May 1st, you should no longer be offered single-use plastic foodware or Styrofoam products at restaurants in the unincorporated areas of LA County! But this ordinance does so much more:
Phases out single-use foodware that is not compostable or recyclable. Since plastic is neither, that means no more single-use plastic foodware!
Phases out the sale of products made of Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) aka Styrofoam.
Requires full-service restaurants to use reusable foodware for customers who are dining on-site (including reusable plates, cups, bowls, silverware).
The ordinance will go into effect in phases but, for now, if you see a restaurant not complying, be sure to let them know or contact LA County Public Works.
A Huge Relief and Cause for Hope Heal the Bay volunteers have removed more than 4 trillion pieces of trash from LA County Beaches in the past 3 decades, and sadly, 80% was plastic. These ordinances are just the first steps on a long journey to end the local dependency on plastic in Los Angeles. With LA leading the way, the rest of California is following along with the passage of bills like SB54. There is finally real hope for a plastic-free future in LA with safe clean watersheds across the State.
Heal the Bay thrives because of our amazing volunteers. We are only able to celebrate those achievements because of the time, dedication, and support that our volunteers so graciously donate.
Each and every volunteer is instrumental to the success of our organization whether educating the public, reaching out to communities, aiding in aquarium care, or picking up plastic at the beach. Volunteer passion for the environment through selfless dedication is the ture heart and soul of Heal the Bay and drive our accomplishments toward achieving the mission to protect coastal waters and watersheds of Southern California. On March 23, 2023, we took time to celebrate our volunteers at Heal the Bay’s 33rd Annual Volunteer Appreciation Party and Award Ceremony.
Sharing our 2022 Volunteer Success:
Aquarium volunteers contributed 4,005 hours to the Heal the Bay Aquarium, supported field trips, assisted in caring for our animals, and guided visitors through the experience of our touch tanks.
MPA Watch volunteers conducted 489 surveys in 2022 to monitor human activity in the Palos Verdes and Malibu Marine Protected Area sites.
Thousands of volunteers picked up trash from the greater L.A.’s shorelines and neighborhoods last year. On Coastal Cleanup Day, 4,583 volunteers removed more than 11,298 lbs. of trash and 313 lbs. of recyclables from our waterways and neighborhoods.
Our Key Stone Award Winners
The Jean Howell Award and the Bob Hertz Award are Heal the Bay’s lifetime achievement awards. This years award winners, like any keystone, have become central to the success of many Heal the Bay programs. A special thank you to our 2023 awardees.
Tim Cheung – Jean Howell Award
Tim began volunteering with Heal the Bay in 2017. Through the years, Tim has been instrumental to the Beach Captains team for Nothin’ But Sand and Heal the Bay public cleanup programs. In the past, Tim represented Heal the Bay at tabling events in the community and helped spread our virtual Knowledge Drop education series at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tim brings a strong sense of community to each cleanup and ensuring all team members feel informed and involved along the way, commanding the attention of our cleanup volunteers at Nothin’ But Sand every month, ensuring a safe cleanup. At the end of the cleanup, Tim leads the charge, weighing the trash and transporting large items to the dumpster, often by himself. There is no task Tim isn’t willing to do.
John Wells – Jean Howell Award
Since joining Heal the Bay’s MPA Watch Program in February 2020, John has conducted more than 385 MPA Watch surveys. His surveys alone account for more than 25% of the submitted surveys on behalf of Heal the Bay’s MPA Watch program. John’s increased resolution in our data came during an exceptional need to record unprecedented changes in human recreational and consumptive behavior in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. John was awarded the MPA Watch Super Healer award in 2020 and his dedication to Heal the Bay has only grown stronger, serving as an active volunteer, a Beach Captain at monthly NBS beach clean-ups, Suits on the Sand events, and at Heal the Bay’s Coastal Cleanup Day in 2022. John’s contributions are invaluable
John Reyes – Bob Hertz Award
John Reyes attends every Heal the Bay volunteer opportunity. There isn’t a cleanup program or Heal the Bay event that John is not involved. Since 2018, John has captained Coastal Cleanup Day sites in Dockweiler State Beach and even organized his own Adopt-A-Beach team, “the Beach Reacher’s”, to clean up would-be marine debris from L.A.’s inland watershed. John is always one of the first volunteers to sign up to support special Heal the Bay events such as the Trash Bowl and Golf Open. Even during the rainy seasons John joins our Storm Response cleanup efforts. His leadership at Nothin But Sand Cleanups are instrumental and he has volunteered at over 100 Suits on the Sand cleanups. The current Beach Programs team wishes to express the greatest gratitude for John’s dedication and outstanding support.
Celebrating our Super Healers
All Heal the Bay volunteers are wavemakers, but some go above and beyond. We are especially proud to recognize the following outstanding individuals with the 2022 Super Healer Awards:
Sharon Lawrence – Development Super Healer
Actress, philanthropist, and leader Sharon Lawrence is known to most as the multiple Primetime Emmy-nominated and SAG Award-winning actress from hit shows like NYPD Blue, Grey’s Anatomy, Monk, Law and Order: SVU, Rizzoli & Isles, and Curb Your Enthusiasm (among many others). She has also been a change-maker at Heal the Bay for more than a decade, working tirelessly wherever she is needed, serving most recently as Chair of the Heal the Bay Board of Directors. Always the advocate for Heal the Bay, Sharon uses her voice and passionate influence to raise unquantifiable amounts of support and donations that have helped fund some of our most important science, policy, and outreach programs. A wavemaker like Sharon is truly one in a million.
Amalfi Estates (Anthony Marguleas) – Corporate Super Healer
Anthony Marguleas of Amalfi Estates often notes: “we are a philanthropic company that excels at selling real estate. Alongside our commitment to our clients stands our commitment to our community.” Every year the Amalfi team donates 10% of their commissions to Heal the Bay among six L.A. charities. Their mighty team of 10 works enthusiastically to support local nonprofits donating more than $2 million since 2015.In just the past two years, nearly $35,000 has benefited Heal the Bay. When it comes to corporate responsibility, Amalfi Estates leads by example, setting the standard for what organizational-wide philanthropy can look like in the 21st century.
Andrea Martina Isenchmid – Communications Super Healer
Andrea is an actress, filmmaker, and artist, but we all know and love her as one of our most dedicated Beach Captains and Speakers. She has been a Heal the Bay volunteer for many years, inspiring countless attendees at our Nothin’ But Sand Beach Cleanups with her energizing educational safety talks. Rain or shine Andrea is always ready to help setup at the beach and a reliable amplifier promoting Heal the Bay’s messaging and advocacy through social media often serving as impromptu social media photographer for the Communications team. This year, Andrea furthered her passion for Heal the Bay’s mission with the completion on “Marina the Mermaid”. the single-use plastic recycle. This 6-foot-tall recycled mannequin is adorned with pounds of items collected during Nothin’ But Sand Cleanups and her own self-cleanups. Her artwork will be on display during the entirety of Earth Month this April at the Heal the Bay Aquarium to raise environmental awareness.
Celina Banuelos – Public Programs Super Healer
Celina is a real Ocean Hero, dedicating extensive time and effort to interpreting marine life for the public at the Heal the Bay Aquarium. She has helped countless visitors interact with ocean creatures for the first time at the Aquarium while exercising unwavering advocacy for the animals that live in Santa Monica Bay. Celina inspires people to connect with the ocean. We are so grateful to you, Celina, for all that you have done!
Hannah Benharash – Public Programs Super Healer
Hannah is a Heal the Bay regular and is always open to new experiences. Whether breaking down birthday parties or interpreting at the touch tanks on busy weekends, Hannah has made our aquarium programs unforgettable. Hannah is not only enthusiastic and dedicated but also extremely well-known for their unmatched button-making skills! We are grateful to Hannah for always coming to our rescue at the Heal the Bay Aquarium when it is needed the most.
Sophia Sorady – Public Programs Super Healer
Sophia is a Wave Maker who has inspired her peers to take action in support of environmentalism. An amazing advocacy teacher for all our new public programs volunteers, Sophia dedicated time to the Aquarium by ensuring guests responsibly interacting with our animals. . Sophia is a kindhearted leader with compassion for the ocean, and we are proud to have her on our team.
Ren Capati – Public Programs Super Healer
Ren is a stellar Public Programs volunteer. Extremely knowledgeable, dependable, and always curious, Ron has been volunteering with the Public Programs team for more years than some senior staff members! We love talking with Ren about discoveries in marine science, and are grateful for Ren’s infectious passion as part of the Heal the Bay team!
Jim Mckenzie – Aquarist Super Healer
Jim has been volunteering with the Aquarium Operations department for the past two years and is an invaluable member of our team. Jim’s curiosity and dedication to protecting our environment shines through in all the work he does with Heal the Bay. From helping keep exhibits squeaky clean to spending time out on the sand supporting a beach cleanup, Jim has done it all. He is easily our best and most reliable first mate on Dorothy for kelp collections and overall incredible support to have at the Heal the Bay Aquarium. We’re so honored to have Jim be part of our team!
Russell Blakely – Super Healer
Russell first volunteered with Heal the Bay in 2021, as a Beach Captain to help clean coastal areas. Russell is a tireless hero of our Nothin’ But Sand cleanups; always working and giving his all. Recently, Russell has developed into one of our leading Corporate Outreach volunteers, helping at Suits on the Sand cleanups, and on more than one occasion assisting at TWO cleanups in ONE day. Russell is our Suits on the Sand superstar.
Brant Kim – Super Healer
Brant started as a Beach Captain in 2022 and has exhibited multitalented capabilities of leading any station. Exceptionally helpful with uplifting all our new digital initiatives at our cleanups, such as the electronic check-in, waiver check, and DEI survey, Brant’s commitment to community outreach streamlines Heal the Bay’s Beach Program initiatives.
Alice Pak – Super Healer
Alice began volunteering with Heal the Bay in 2022 and has been an excellent addition to the Beach Captains team. Alice hit the sand running, quickly optimizing our Nothin’ But Sand event procedures, most importantly, our registration booth protocols. With Alice at the registration desk the Beach Programs volunteer teams are able to check-in 300 attendees in an hour or less. In addition to serving as a teacher on the sand for other volunteers, Alice is one of our most dependable Beach Captains.
David Eddy -Super Healer & Keystone Starfish
David started volunteering his data analysis skills to Heal the Bay in 2020. In the past, he helped our water quality scientists assess dissolved oxygen levels in the Channel Islands Harbor, painting an impressive overview of the data through visuals and a results overview video. This year, David has started volunteering his time and expertise to help the Beach Programs team revive the marine debris database, integrating our historic data with current datasets, and helping Heal the Bay bring our historic marine debris database into a modern, accessible format. Thank you for making that dream a reality!
Tasha Kolokotrones – Science Super Healer
Tasha Kolokotrones has been an MPA Watch volunteer with Heal the Bay since 2021. Inspired by a love of the outdoors, Tasha has conducted more than 50 MPA watch surveys earning honorable mention as one our most active MPA Watch volunteers. In 2022, Tasha submitted more surveys than 90% of our other program volunteers. Thanks to Tasha, our Marine Protected Area in Palos Verdes had consistent MPA Watch monitoring in 2022, an accomplishment all on its own!
Drought or flood? Can both be true at the same time? Yes, and here’s what you need to know with Heal the Bay CEO Tracy Quinn in Part 2 of our 3-part series, Commit to Conservation.
RECENT DRAMATIC STORMS,known asatmospheric rivers, have caused major damage including flooding, mudslides, and sinkholes. Up in the mountains, the California snowpack is 208% of average for this date and Mammoth Mountain is having its second snowiest January on record. We are receiving record precipitation this year which can be good for our water supply but the drought is not over. We know it is confusing, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are 3 things you need to know about water supply in CA.
Drought & Water Supply Recovery – 3 Limiting Factors
First, we started this year with a huge water deficit. About 40% of California’s water supply comes from groundwater and we have been over pumping our groundwater supplies for decades. When we don’t get enough surface water (i.e., rain and snowmelt that flows to our streams, rivers, and lakes), water users – mostly agriculture – use even more groundwater. And because 19 of the 20 hottest years on record have occurred since 2001, and groundwater has been largely unregulated in California, our groundwater supplies have significantly declined. In fact, in the last 100 years, California drained enough fresh water to provide every person on Earth with a 30-year supply of drinking water. According to the USGS, it would take about 50 years to naturally recharge our groundwater supplies.
As Charming Evelyn, Sierra Club Water Chair, explains above, we’ve pumped so much groundwater that the land has sunk – in some places over 28 feet. It’s a phenomenon called “subsidence.”
Second,we can’t be certain that our immense snowpack will translate to full reservoirs that will carry us through the summer and fall when we need it most. California gets about 30% of our water from the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains and our water system relies on the snow melting slowly over the spring and summer, filling reservoirs as water is discharged to meet the needs of our homes, businesses, and farms and leaving enough to get us through the fall until it rains and snows again. Unfortunately, climate change models have predicted, that we will now see early snowfall followed by unusually warm springs – in fact, this is what we saw last year. Between sublimation (snow evaporating off the mountain), overgrown forests with thirsty trees, and exceptionally dry soils, only a small fraction of our frozen reservoir (i.e., the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada and Colorado Rocky Mountains) even reached the lakes and reservoirs that supply our statewide water system. The same may happen this year.
Uncaptured stormwater flows into Santa Monica Bay after Winter rainfall. Source: Heal the Bay
Ladera Park’s stormwater capture garden adds beauty to picnic area. By Bria Royal/Heal the Bay
Third,we’re not capturing all this rain. In the first three weeks of 2023, Los Angeles received over 8 inches of rain, which translates to about 568 billion gallons of water. Much of this water falls on impervious surfaces like roofs and streets, picks up pollutants from cars, pet waste, and trash and flows briskly to the nearest stormdrain and eventually out to the ocean. Recent investments helped us capture 33 billion gallons of this winter’s rainfall in Los Angeles County, but the majority of this precipitation is still flushing out to the ocean through stormdrains and rivers. Heal the Bay has been at the forefront, working to make sure we pursue new capture projects that offer multiple benefits through LA County’s Safe, Clean Water Program.
Now is not the time to take our foot off the accelerator when it comes to saving water. Every drop of water we save now is a drop that will be available to us for essential uses during the dry times ahead. And remember, saving water saves energy – especially if you are reducing your use of hot water. So using less water helps save money on your utility bills and helps fight climate change! Here are our top water saving tips you can do to create climate resilient communities.
1. Install a FLUME device. Flume is a product that you can easily install on your water meter that sends water use data straight to your phone and can even alert you to a leak. According to the EPA, Americans lose 1 TRILLION gallons of water through household leaks each year. Right now, LADWP customers can get a FLUME device for just $24 (plus tax). Get personalized information on how you can save water right from an app on your phone!
2. Transform your thirsty turf landscape into a beautiful native garden. Did you know that the number one irrigated crop in America is turf grass? In Los Angeles, 50% to 70% of our drinking water (most of which we transport from hundreds of miles away) is used to irrigate landscapes, mostly grass that isn’t suitable for our climate. Right now LADWP customers can get up to $25,000 to remove the turf grass around their home. What can you do? Sign up for the rebate, remove your “non-functional turf” and replace it with a landscape that captures stormwater, maintains healthy soils, and is full of native plants to reduce your home’s irrigation demands:
A bioswale can capture water for home landscaping. Photo by Tracy Quinn/Heal the Bay
Connect your roof gutters to a rain barrel or bioswale and grade your landscape to capture the rain that falls on your property instead of letting it run into the street. This also prevents pollution like dirt and oils from cars and pet waste from reaching our rivers and beaches.
Maintain healthy soils because they retain more water. Healthy soils also capture and store carbon helping to mitigate the impacts of climate change.
Plant native plants, which, in addition to benefiting your water supply, can help maintain SoCal’s incredible biodiversity by providing food and shelter for birds, bees, and butterflies. This is especially important as our planet is currently facing a mass extinction event because human activity has reduced natural habitats. Find locally appropriate native plants here in Los Angeles at Theodore Payne Nursery.
💬 ASK THE EXPERTS:Should I replace my grass with artificial turf? Short answer – No! Artificial turf is usually made from plastic, prevents insects from digging and aerating soils, pollutes the soils underneath it and the water that runs over it, and can contribute to extreme heat issues. For even more reasons to avoid it, check out this article.
The Westwood Neighborhood Greenway is maintained by volunteers who restore native plant species near the Westwood/Rancho Park E Line station in support of local biodiversity. Photo by Bria Royal/Heal the Bay
3. Start a water-wise lifestyle trend in shared living spaces. Not a homeowner? Not a problem! Whether you’re renting an apartment or living in a student dorm, there are still plenty of daily actions we can all take to use less water. Check out more water savings tips for shared living spaces. And never underestimate the power of collective action. You can talk to your neighbors about the benefits of native landscaping, and collectively approach your landlord to request that they replace the turf in your complex. Suggestions from several tenants along with enticing rebates could sway your landlord and land you with some beautiful new outdoor vistas.
💥#Commit2ConserveChallenge: Once you’re ready to take action, download the Dashboard.Earth app for step by step guides, links to rebated materials, and an easy-to-use checklist curated by Heal the Bay and Metropolitan Water District. With our ONE Water Pledge, you can begin tracking your progress in managing your home’s water supply and usage. Then, share your progress on social media to spread the word.
Written by Tracy Quinn. Leading a dynamic team of scientists, policy experts, outreach specialists, educators, and advocates in pursuit of its clean water mission, Heal the Bay CEO Tracy Quinn is responsible for setting new science and policy goals, expanding Heal the Bay Aquarium as the premier marine science education destination in Southern California, and increasing community action throughout Greater LA. Tracy has dedicated her life to improving water quality in our rivers and ocean and ensuring safe, reliable, and affordable water for all Californians.
In Part 1 of our 3-part series, Commit to Conservation, Heal the Bay Water Quality Scientist Annelisa explains how smart water practices like recycling and conservation can help ensure the human right to water and the rights of nature, even as California becomes more arid.
MANY FOLKS LIVING IN CALIFORNIA are all too familiar with drought, because it seems like we are always in one. I was born and raised in California, so drought conditions have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I learned to turn off the faucet while I brushed my teeth, to limit my showers to 5 minutes or less, and to never let a drop of water go to waste. Many California residents have gotten really good at conserving water when drought is in the news, but we are not as familiar with the why behind it all, so those good water practices often fall away as soon as we get some rain. Unfortunately, one good rainstorm — or even a few — is not enough to end a drought, nor is it enough to prepare for the next one. Drought cycles have always occurred in California, and they continue to worsen as the climate crisis persists, due in part to a process called aridification that is making our dry years even drier. What we consider “normal” is constantly shifting, and then we still get periods of drought on top of that. In this blog, we will start to explore the why behind all of our conservation efforts, and what that means for Los Angeles’ water future.
A map of drought conditions in California, as of October 18, 2022. This map shows exceptional drought conditions (the highest level of drought severity) in the Central Valley. All of California is experiencing some level of drought conditions, and the majority of California is experiencing severe, extreme, or exceptional drought conditions. Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture
Water Management in Los Angeles
Where does LA Water come from? Source: Know the Flow / Heal the Bay
Roughly 80% of LA’s water is imported from hundreds of miles away in the Northern Sierra Nevada mountain range and San Francisco Bay Delta via the CA Aqueduct, the Eastern Sierra and Owens Valley via the LA Aqueduct, and the Rocky Mountains via the Colorado River Aqueduct. Most of this imported water starts as snowpack in the mountains. In fact, California’s water system was designed so that the snowpack would be our biggest reservoir, with the Sierra Nevada (which translates to snow-covered mountains in Spanish) alone holding 30% of California’s water. The snow would build up in the winter, and then slowly melt over the spring to fill reservoirs, recharge groundwater aquifers, and flow through our aqueducts so that we have water supply when we need it most in the summer and fall, at which time the cycle would start all over again.
While we continue to take water from critical ecosystems like the Bay Delta, Owens Valley, and Colorado River Delta, which also need that snowmelt, we flush away the water that is available to us locally. Even in dry weather, 10 million gallons of water flow through Los Angeles’ stormdrain system and out to the ocean every single day just from nuisance flow (e.g., broken sprinklers, washing cars, hosing down driveways). And then, when we do get rain, that flow number surges with stormwater runoff, averaging 100 billion gallons of water wasted each year, when it could instead be captured and put to beneficial use. In addition, hundreds of millions of gallons of treated water is discharged from our wastewater treatment plants each day. Some of this treated water flows to the ocean through rivers and streams, and at least some of this flow may be needed to provide critical habitat for ecosystem health. But the treated water that is discharged directly to the ocean provides no beneficial purpose.
To learn more about the LA Aqueduct and its effects on local peoples and ecosystems, watch The Aqueduct Between Us, directed by AnMarie Mendoza from the Gabrieleno-Tongva Tribe.
Water Resources in Los Angeles Change with the Climate
Climate change is happening now. We are seeing and feeling the effects every day with relentless record-breaking heat waves, floods, fire seasons, and droughts. We already experience what is called weather whiplash: dramatic swings between extreme weather patterns. Climate change continues to intensify these swings, so our dry years are hotter and drier, and our wet years are even more intense. More frequent dry years and hotter temperatures drive demand for water up (it takes more water to irrigate crops and landscapes), depleting water supply. Evaporation also takes its toll by pulling water from reservoirs and even taking moisture up from the land, which weakens ecosystem health and actually makes it harder for the land to absorb water when it does rain. Add longer and more intense droughts into that mix, and it is clear that California is becoming more dry (or arid) over time. This process is called aridification, and the trend will only increase as human-accelerated climate change continues.
Low flow in the Colorado River, Source: Vicki Devine / Center for Biological Diversity
Critically low snowpack in California. Source: Stephanie Elam / CNN
Despite this dire news, it does still rain in Los Angeles. Looking ahead, we actually expect to get thesame volume of rain locally on average as we have in recent history, but it will fall less often through heavier downpours. In addition, our dwindling snowpack reservoirs are melting faster each year. We do not currently have the infrastructure in place to capture that higher level of runoff from intense storms and fast snowmelt. This all means that more water will flow back to the ocean rather than being stored as snowpack, or infiltrated into groundwater reservoirs. Some people have suggested that more surface reservoirs are the answer, but they are excessively expensive. Much of the stored water would be lost to evaporation, and quite frankly, we have already dammed most of the rivers in CA. So we must rethink how we manage water to make the most of the resources we do have left.
Water Management in Los Angeles Must Change, Too
While we will continue to experience aridification and weather whiplash, we can still adapt to this hotter, drier future. To do this, conservation cannot only happen in response to a drought designation, but it must be a way of life. The good news is that there are local and sustainable solutions that individuals can do at home (indoor and outdoor) and systemic changes that we can push for together to be water wise.
We can source enough water locally to support our water needs and drastically reduce our reliance on imported water. This can be done through improving water conservation/efficiency both regionally and at home, groundwater cleanup, stormwater capture, and wastewater purification, without turning to expensive, energy intensive, and environmentally harmful practices such as ocean water desalination. Additionally, there is an opportunity to use nature-based solutions that capture and infiltrate water naturally to support overall ecosystem health, which, in turn, can help to mitigate the impacts of the climate crisis, among myriad additional benefits. In this way we can ensure the human right to water so people can stay safe and healthy, and respect therights of nature by keeping our ecosystems thriving.
Nature-based solutions for stormwater capture. Source: Heal the Bay
Do What You Can When You Can – Stay Informed
Issues of California’s dwindling water supply, increased demand, and uncertain reliability can feel overwhelming. But we are not powerless in this climate crisis. We can all take the Climate Challenge to do what we can when we can. Start today and focus on “what we learn” — or whatever resonates with you. You can stay informed. Heal the Bay can help.
Over the next six months, Heal the Bay will be exploring what it means to live in an arid state, and what climate change, drought, and aridification mean for our water future. We will share solutions and opportunities for advancing water efficiency to become more water wise at home and as a community through collective and regional action. Stay tuned for more content!In the meantime…
💥ASK THE EXPERTS: What do you want to know? Ask our staff scientists any questions you have about aridification, drought, and water conservation. Your answer may be featured in an upcoming blog post or video from Heal the Bay.
Written by Annelisa Moe. As a Heal the Bay Water Quality Scientist, Annelisa helps to keep L.A. water clean and safe by advocating for comprehensive and science-based water quality regulation and enforcement. Before joining the team at Heal the Bay, she worked with the Regional Water Quality Control Board in both the underground storage tank program and the surface water ambient monitoring program.
💥 Action Alert: We need your calls of support to pass these 5 bills before the end of the California Legislative Season.
UPDATE 09/06/2022: ALL 5 of these bills were passed! Thanks for your support in helping California protect communities and waterways. Now it’s up to Governor Newsom to sign them into law!
IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR:the end of the California Legislative season! Our state Senators and Assemblymembers have some important decisions to make over the next two weeks and we are just a few plays away from passing some innovative new laws that will help California communities battle climate change, pollution, and drought all while protecting our precious water and ocean resources. We have already had some major wins from the year, like Senate Bill 54 (Allen) passing back in June to fight plastic pollution, and losses, like Heal the Bay sponsored Assembly Bill 2758 (O’Donnell), which would have required public meetings on the DDT pollution off our coast but didn’t make it out of Senate Appropriations. However, there are still plenty of bills on the docket that need our urgent attention.
Heal the Bay has been supporting the following five bills over the past 2-year bill cycle and we have until August 31 to ensure that they are passed by the Senate & Assembly and, if they pass, until September 30 for the Governor to sign them into law. A key factor in their decision-making is the opinions of their constituents. That’s right, YOU! Let’s take a look at this year’s top contenders for environmental legislative wins and how you can help get them across the finish line:
1. AB 1832: Seabed Mining Ban (L. Rivas)
The ocean seafloor is a rich and thriving ecosystem, but around the world, that ecosystem is being threatened by seabed mining. A practice that resembles clearcutting a forest, mining the seafloor for minerals destroys habitat and wildlife leaving behind a barren seascape that grows so slowly, it may never recover. Mining also creates enormous toxic sediment plumes and noise, light, and thermal pollution that disrupt marine habitats. Following in Oregon and Washington’s footsteps, AB 1832 would ban seabed mining in California, effectively protecting the entire West Coast of the United States from this dangerous practice.
2. AB 2638: Water Bottle Refill Stations in Schools (Bloom)
Reusable water bottles are an excellent alternative to disposable plastic bottles, but they aren’t a viable solution if there is nowhere to refill them. AB 2638 would require any new construction or modernization project by a school district to include water bottle filling stations. By increasing access to safe drinking water at refill stations in schools, we can contribute to reuse and refill systems across the state, allowing our students to use reusable bottles instead of harmful disposable ones.
3. SB 1036: Ocean Conservation Corps (Newman)
For decades, the California Conservation Corps has served young adults across the state by hiring and training young adults for conservation-based service work on environmental projects. SB 1036 would expand this program and create an Ocean Conservation Corps. This bill would increase workforce development opportunities to thousands of young adults while contributing to ocean conservation projects like those currently happening at the Heal the Bay Aquarium.
4. SB 1157: Drought Resilience through Water Efficiency (Hertzberg)
California is experiencing long-term aridification, which means a hotter and drier climate, and is currently several years into the most severe drought in 1,200 years. We must ensure that California’s urban areas are not wasting water as we adapt to our changing climate. SB 1157 would update water use efficiency standards to reflect our growing need to conserve water based on best available indoor water use trends. Water efficiency is one of the cheapest, fastest, and most efficient ways we can meet long-term water needs and increase resilience in the face of the climate crisis. Saving water also saves energy, so it can help us meet our climate goals while also resulting in cheaper utility bills. That’s a win-win!
5. AB 1857: Anti-Incineration (C. Garcia)
Right now, Californians are sending their waste to incineration facilities to be burned instead of landfilled or recycled. These facilities are disproportionately located in frontline communities already overburdened by multiple pollution sources. Cities that send their waste to these toxic facilities are currently able to claim “diversion credits”, a tactic aimed at reducing waste sent to landfill and classifying incineration inappropriately in the same categories as recycling and source reduction. AB 1857 would redefine incineration as true disposal, and remove these diversion credits while also funding investments in zero-waste communities most impacted by incineration. This is a critical bill for achieving environmental justice in California and moving us away from toxic false solutions to our waste crisis.
Your representative wants to hear from you to help them vote on these bills, and your voice makes a huge difference. So, we need your help.
Hello, my name is [insert your name here] and I am a constituent of [insert the representative’s name here, e.g. Senator Stern]. I care deeply about the health and wellness of California’s natural ecosystems and am calling to ask the [Senator/Assemblymember] to vote yes on these five environmental bills: AB 1832, AB 1857, AB 2638, SB 1036, and SB 1157.
These bills will help California protect our environment and better prepare for climate change, while protecting our most vulnerable communities. As your constituent, this legislation is important to me and I urge [insert representative name] to vote yes on all of them.
Written by Emily Parker. As a Coastal and Marine Scientist for Heal the Bay, Emily works to keep our oceans and marine ecosystems healthy and clean by advocating for strong legislation and enforcement both locally and statewide. She focuses on plastic pollution, marine protected areas, sustainable fisheries, and climate change related issues.
Are you ready to advocate for your community? Your region? Your planet? Share your passion with decision-makers using this “how-to” on crafting and delivering written and oral comments. Annelisa Moe, Water Quality Scientist at Heal the Bay (who’s given her fair share of public testimony on local environmental issues) shares tips on how to make public comments and advocate for clean water.
Have you ever wanted to make a real impact on an issue you care about? Maybe you want to discuss getting safer bike lanes, smaller trash bins, or clean water for your community.
One great way to connect with policymakers and officials is by submitting public comments. Heal the Bay regularly submits written and oral comments and over the years, we have seen the direct positive impacts of our advocacy on decision making organizations like the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board, LA City Council, CA Coastal Commission, CA Fish & Game Commission, LA County Board of Supervisors, and many more.
Here is Heal the Bay’s Step-by-Step guide on how you can write up and deliver your public comments to advocate for the change you want to see in the world. You have valuable experiences and information to provide to decision-makers and you have everything it takes to become a powerful advocate for the changes you want to see in your community. Let’s get started.
Annelisa Moe, Water Quality Scientist at Heal the Bay and advocate for water quality regulation, shares her thoughts at MS4 Permit hearing last summer. Before joining Heal the Bay, Moe worked with the Regional Water Quality Control Board.
Step I: Identify Your Influencer
The first step toward constructing the perfect public comment is identifying the right decision-maker to engage. This could include influencers from a wide variety of public offices, from Neighborhood Council Members to Senators. These decision-makers want to hear from the public, especially from constituents like you, and oftentimes this input informs their initiatives.
Step II: Gather Information
Every decision-maker (State Board, Committee, Senator, Council Member, etc.) will have their preferred way for you to sign up to speak or send in written comments, and it can be pretty confusing – even for professionals who give public comments for a living! Once you identify who you want to communicate with, look online for the following:
A meeting agenda for the Council or Committee you are interested in
Detailed information on how to submit written or oral comments
Deadlines on written comments and time limits for oral comments
Contact information for an elected official or decision-making body.
Written comments could be a more formal written letter, or something a little less formal like an email or online submission. No matter what the format is, these seven basic elements provide a good place to start:
Address the decision-maker, and introduce yourself
State what you are commenting on and why (provide an agenda # if applicable)
Provide a personal story or anecdote
Add in stats, facts, and figures (if you have them)
End stating your position again and thanking the decision-maker(s) for the opportunity to comment
Ask a peer to proofread your comment and edit for spelling, grammar, consistent spacing, and font type
Emphasize importance by repeating certain phrases, or by adding bold, italics, or underline effects to your text (sparingly)
Keep in mind that you do not have to write a novel. A comment of any length can have an impact, especially if you write in your voice and get creative. It doesn’t matter if there is a small error or something that you missed; the important part is that you are sharing your opinion and your passion with people and organizations who can influence big decisions.
Perhaps you’d rather show up in person (or virtually, as is common these days) to a meeting and speak directly to the decision-makers. A little bit of prep work can help here, too.
The public comment period at most meetings is usually time-limited, and that time can range anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes. To make sure you do not run out of time, or leave out some important information, we recommend writing out your comments to reference while you speak.
Write out a full script and read your comment word for word or use bullet points to guide your comments more naturally. In either case, your oral comment should include the same seven basic elements as a written comment (review in the written comments section above).
Be sure to practice saying your comment aloud with a timer to get comfortable and ensure you are under the time limit. It can be helpful to do this with a friend who is willing to listen and provide feedback. Try to make sure you are familiar with the platform on which the meeting will be hosted (e.g. Zoom, WebEx), how to give public comments at your specific meeting, and if and when you might need to register for that meeting. When it comes time to give your comment at the meeting, remember to be clear and concise, take your time and breathe, annunciate, and speak more slowly than you think you need to (we all tend to speed up when we are nervous).
To hear a (rather exceptional) example, listen to this comment by a high school student (and former Club Heal the Bay member) Bella Wash at a Regional Water Board meeting, concerning their decision on the regional stormwater permit.
Step IV: Submit Your Comment
When you use your voice to advocate for change our policymakers listen, and you don’t have to do it alone. You can inspire others in your community to use their voices and public comments to improve the world around you and as always Heal the Bay is here to help empower you! Contact Heal the Bay when you need help and jumpstart your journey as an advocate today.
Raise your Voice This July
The Regional Board is currently updating their regulation of toxic pollution (including DDT) in Dominguez Channel, Los Angeles Harbor, and Long Beach Harbor. Public comments will be accepted until July 26. Heal the Bay is wading through all of the details now–so stay tuned for more information in the next few weeks!
The recent oil spill near Orange County is a painful reminder of the dangers associated with fossil fuels.
Oil spills, air pollution, and single-use plastic waste are all preventable impacts from the fossil fuel industry. There is simply no safe way to drill. The only solution is a just transition away from an extractive fossil fuel economy.
Heal the Bay is calling on our elected officials and appointed agencies to end oil drilling in state and federal waters, and to decommission existing offshore drilling operations immediately. But it is not enough to ban all offshore drilling, when Big Oil will just ramp up their operations in our neighborhoods and public lands. We must end this harmful practice everywhere.
Let’s turn this preventable disaster into an opportunity to protect communities, our environment, and our local economy.
Numerous elected officials have stepped up to call for an end to offshore drilling – this needs to include an end for existing leases and an immediate decommissioning of offshore oil platforms and operations. We are heartened especially by Senator Min’s vow to introduce this type of legislation for California, by his and Senator Newman’s call for federal representatives to do the same. We will keep you updated on state and federal legislation and how to keep pushing it forward.
UPDATE 10/5: Good news – Gov. Newsom signed SB 343, AB 1276, and AB 962 into law! Thanks for making your voice heard.
Action Alert! Support Heal the Bay’s top 3 California plastic-reduction bills. Call your reps and help get these environmental bills to the finish line. Learn about the bills, contact your representatives, and use our sample script below.
A few major plastic bills are up for a vote, and we need your help to urge your representatives to vote YES! This year, the California legislature introduced a suite of bills to fight plastic pollution called the Circular Economy Package. While not all of the bills have made it through the long and harrowing process, three are nearing the finish line and are priorities for Heal the Bay. These bills are heading to the floor for a vote, which means we only have a couple weeks left to get them passed! The bills each tackle plastic pollution in a unique way, so let’s break them down.
Senate Bill 343: The Truth in Environmental Advertising Act
Have you ever turned over a plastic cup or container to read the number on the bottom and noticed it’s encircled with a recycling “chasing arrows” symbol, only to then learn that item in fact could not be recycled? Us too, and it’s frustrating. This bill would make that illegal, and only permit the chasing arrows symbol to be used on items that are actually recyclable in California and never as part of a plastic resin identification code (those numbers that tell you what type of plastic the item is made from). SB 343 would help to clarify what items should go in the blue bin, reducing confusion among consumers, contamination, and waste volume while improving diversion rates, meaning less waste is sent to landfill and more is actually recycled.
Assembly Bill 1276: Disposable Foodware Accessories
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have all begun relying much more heavily on takeout and delivery to feed ourselves and our loved ones while supporting local restaurants. The downside? Receiving disposable foodware accessories like cutlery, condiment packets, and straws that we don’t need and frequently end up in the trash without ever being used. These items, often made of single-use plastics, are clogging waste facilities and polluting our environment. AB 1276 would require that these food ware accessories only be provided upon explicit request of the customer, so you wouldn’t get them unless you ask.
Assembly Bill 962: California Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act
What’s the best way to fight plastic pollution? Tackling the problem from the source. This bill focuses on replacing harmful pollution-causing disposable plastic items with sustainable reusable and refillable alternatives. AB 962 helps pave the way for returnable and refillable beverage bottles in California by allowing glass bottles to be washed and refilled by beverage companies instead of crushed and recycled into new bottles – a much less energy intensive process that encourages reuse and refill. The measure reduces waste and encourages the use of glass bottles over disposable plastic ones.
All of these bills will be up for a vote soon. Call your representatives and urge them to VOTE YES on SB 343, AB 1276, and AB 962.
“Hi, my name is __________ and I am a resident of __________ and a constituent of representative__________. As an active member of my community with concerns about plastic pollution, I urge you to vote YES on SB 343, AB 1276, and AB 962. As part of the Circular Economy Package, these bills will reduce plastic pollution in my community and protect my public health. Thank you for your time.”
The Los Angeles Regional Board has neglected their mission – to protect and enhance our water resources – by making polluting easier for dischargers rather than requiring action. The job of holding polluters accountable will once again fall on us.
The discharge of polluted stormwater in Los Angeles is regulated by the LA Regional Water Quality Control Board through the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permit. The Regional Board had an opportunity this month to improve the MS4 Permit during its decadal update, but in a disappointing decisionthe Board instead greenlit the continued degradation of waterbodies in our communities by adopting a MS4 Permit with the same loopholes as the ineffective 2012 Permit. This decision continues a pattern of insufficient accountability for stormwater dischargers and will only further delay progress, resulting in stagnant or even declining surface water quality.
Permittees asked for a weaker permit with fewer requirements and a longer timeframe
The four-day hearing (see our Twitter updates) began with testimony from public officials who once again lamented their limited access to competitive funding sources for stormwater projects. Elected officials represent cities, which are permittees under the MS4 Permit. They are not community voices – they are the voice of the dischargers asking for a weaker permit with fewer requirements and a longer timeframe.
We understand that completing projects is difficult, particularly for cities with smaller budgets. However, the MS4 Permit has been around for 30 years, and we have yet to see a significant reduction in stormwater pollution. We cannot afford to wait another 30 years before we start to see improvements. Luckily, there are funding opportunities available right now through local, state, and even federal programs. Additional resources include opportunities for collaboration between the cities, supplemental work from non-profits and community groups looking to build projects in their neighborhoods, support from Regional Board staff, and information from LA County’s WHAM Taskforce and Watershed Coordinators who are all assigned to identify and leverage funding sources.
Most importantly, the benefits of compliance far outweigh the costs. Achieving clean water is not just a respectable goal, but a federally mandated law to protect communities and ecosystems from polluted water. Unfortunately, water quality has stagnated, even gotten worse in some areas, as our City and County governments have fallen behind schedule. Yet, there are no penalties for their inaction.
Members of the public asked for clean water, better regulation, and more transparency
The Board also heard from dozens of community members asking for clean water, better regulation of stormwater pollution, and more transparency in the regulatory process. We heard from Eva Pagaling, whose tribes (Samala Chumash and Yakama) have historically gathered materials, medicines, and food in the Santa Clara River watershed and coastline. Eva reminded us that these tribes shoulder the burden of MS4 pollution, and urged the Regional Board to hold accountable those responsible for polluted discharges. We heard from Itzel Flores Castillo Wang, a community member and organizer from Boyle Heights in East LA, supporting a transparent permit that holds permittees accountable to implement multi-benefit and nature-based projects where they are needed most. We heard from so many folks demanding action now, in the form of a SMMART Permit that holds polluters accountable and that allows the public to follow progress and engage in the process.
Heal the Bay gave a presentation alongside partners at LA Waterkeeper and the Natural Resources Defense Council outlining the strengths and flaws of the proposed 2021 Regional MS4 Permit. We supported the watershed approach because water flows throughout watershed boundaries; therefore, the approach to reducing pollution must be watershed-wide without stopping at city limits. The optional watershed management program within the permit framework allows for that watershed approach. However, we did not support the “deemed in compliance” language (also known as the “safe harbor”), which shields polluters from enforcement. A SMMART permit can invest in our communities through multi-benefit projects, but only if it is actionable, with enforceable deadlines so that those benefits can become a reality in our communities and not just a hope for the future.
“The small list of projects presented by permittees are happening because there are TMDLs with deadlines and consequences built in. There is no justification for maintaining the safe harbors in this permit. Board staff has already allowed plenty of flexibility…” – Dr. Shelley Luce.
The Water Board is supposed to preserve and enhance water quality for present and future generations; instead, they chose to excuse permittees, once again, for their lack of action.
The Regional Board voted to allow continued degradation of our waterways
As final deliberations began on July 23, it became apparent that Board members were more concerned about the complaints of the permittees than about the demands of community members. Some Board members went even further to bow to dischargers by proposing motions to extend deadlines (which thankfully failed, but with a narrow 4-3 vote against) and completely remove numeric water quality requirements (which failed with a 5-2 vote against). Finally, the Board voted to approve a 2021 Regional MS4 Permit that includes the same safe harbors that made the 2012 MS4 Permit so ineffective, even after dozens of community members asked them directly for clean water and more accountability.
Some improvements were made to increase transparency, including a final direction to Regional Board staff to create a single online portal for all annual reports; however, without even the possibility of enforcement by the Board, there is no accountability for polluters.
It is up to all of us to Take LA by Storm and push for progress together
One board member claimed that “the safe harbors are an expression of trust and confidence in permittees.” But knowing the permittee’s record of inaction, we do not share that trust. By keeping the safe harbors, the Board has effectively decided not to enforce this critical permit. So now, the job of holding permittees accountable will once again fall on us, the concerned residents and nonprofit groups of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. We can take inspiration from Margaret Mead and know that, together, our actions can make a difference.
Sign up to Take LA by Storm to receive updates as the permittees submit their semi-annual reports. We will continue to search for ways to hold polluters accountable while we track progress. If implementation continues to lag, we will demand action together.