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Heal the Bay Blog

Category: Water Quality

Even though it is raining (and snowing) this week across the region, this season’s California snowpack is still well below the historical average for the start of April. Millions of Californians rely on this critical source of water for drinking and irrigation. A small snowpack points to the urgent need for us to conserve and reuse local water. Dr. Shelley Luce, Heal the Bay President and CEO, shares what was top of mind before the COVID-19 response, and why we can’t lose sight of our water.

At the end of last year, I was high up in the mountains with family and friends. We spent our time playing outside, laughing for hours and sledding on a snowy hillside. When I caught my breath, I took cold air deeply into my lungs. The mountain air felt so fresh. There was no wind, and the tall trees on either side of our sledding hill were perfectly still except for the bounding echoes of our joyful voices. It was a beautiful moment.

At the bottom of the hill the dark brown earth, which smelled of moss and mud, peeked through the white snow. I heard the sound of running water and looked closer: there was a stream of clear water flowing down through the tiny meadow toward the road. And I was struck: this is our water. This is Sierra snowmelt. This is the backbone, the source of drinking and irrigation water for millions of people in California. First seeping through a meadow that holds water like a sponge, then emerging as a trickle that builds to a stream that meets others to form a river that supplies a farm or a city. This is our water. And it’s in danger.

Far away on the coast people are drinking, cooking and showering with this very water. This very water is being washed down a drain, through a pipe to a treatment plant and then pushed out to sea. So much energy expended to take this very water from the mountains and valleys it nourishes, down to our homes and businesses in Los Angeles, to filter our waste out of it, to send it into the ocean and then to keep taking more and more every day of our lives. All of this is happening while the climate changes and the snowpack, that backbone, is diminishing and its future is in question.

However, we are changing this wasteful system. In 2019 Mayor Garcetti announced a plan to reuse all the water from our City’s treatment plants. That’s millions of gallons a day of water that will get reused here in LA, so we can stop draining it from our mountain streams. This is proof: we can adapt to climate change by changing a wasteful, linear process to a sustainable, circular system that supports people and nature.

This was our greatest victory last year and the culmination of decades of hard work. We have much more to do in this uncertain climate to protect our water and the awe-inspiring life it nourishes. Together, let’s take action. In the year ahead, we need to sound the alarm on the climate crisis, we need to enact strong science-based policies, and we need to remember the earthly moments that move our hearts and embolden us to take on new challenges with compassion and fortitude.

I look forward to working alongside you in 2020 as Heal the Bay celebrates its 35th anniversary! Thank you for continuing on this epic journey with us.

Dr. Shelley Luce
President and CEO

 

This article was originally published in Heal the Bay’s 2019 Annual Report in February 2020.

 

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We’re celebrating International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month by shining the spotlight on five environmentalists who inspire us.

Women of color are impacted by environmental issues like water pollution and climate change impacts at disproportionate rates as a result of systemic inequity and injustice.1 Racism and a lack of access to education, economic status, and health resources often leave women and people of color out of the conversations and decisions that impact them the most, specifically about land use, natural resources, and environmental policy.

Despite these challenges, women of color continue to create powerful and lasting change in their own communities and abroad.

We thank the environmentalists and activists who continue to fight for what is right despite facing opposition for their bold ideas and for simply being who they are. Women and girls are leaders in their communities and agents of change. Supporting and listening to them will benefit the health of our planet and people for generations to come.

Get to know five environmentalists who have an inspiring legacy of activism.

Wangari Maathai (1940 – 2011), Kenya

Founder of the Green Belt Movement, which has planted over 51 million trees, Professor Maathai focused on environmental conservation and women’s rights. She studied biology in her undergraduate and graduate school programs and later won the Nobel Peace Prize for her vast contributions to sustainable development.

 

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Berta Isabel Cáceres Flores (1971 – 2016), Honduras

Berta Cáceres was an indigenous environmental justice activist and grassroots leader who created the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations (COPINH) in Honduras. She fought courageously against illegal and harmful mining and logging as well as the construction of a dam that would cut off water, food and medicine for the indigenous Lenca people. Cáceres Flores was tragically murdered in 2016, sparking international outrage. The Cáceres family continues to demand justice for this corrupt violation of human rights. 2

 

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Isatou Ceesay (b. 1972), The Gambia

Isatou Ceesay is known as the Queen of Recycling in The Gambia, and rightfully so. Though she was kept from finishing school, she created the Njai Recycling and Income Generation Group, which turns plastic bag waste into purses, creating revenue streams for local women. Ceesay also educates and empowers women through environmental advocacy.

 

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Winona LaDuke (b. 1959), White Earth Indian Reservation

Founder of the White Earth Land Recovery Project and Honor the Earth, LaDuke is an environmentalist and political activist with Indigenous communities. She focuses on sustainable development, renewable energy, climate change, and environmental justice. The White Earth Land Recovery Project is one of the largest non-profit organizations in the United States dedicated to recovering original land and maintaining tribal food, water, and energy rights. Follow Winona on Twitter and Instagram.

 

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Vanessa Nakate (b. 1996), Uganda

Vanessa Nakate founded The Rise Up Movement and uses her voice and platform to share stories about activists in Africa who are striking due to inaction against the climate crisis. Recently, she spoke at the COP25 event in Spain (the United Nations Climate Change Conference) and joined dozens of youth climate activists from around the world to publish a letter to attendees of the World Economic Forum in Davos urging them to take immediate steps to prevent further harm. Follow Vanessa on Twitter and Instagram.

 

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About the author: Mariana Estrada is a digital advocacy intern at Heal the Bay. She grew up in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles where she enjoys a lively community of close-knit families and great food. She became interested in environmental issues like air quality at an unusually young age due to living in the city. Estrada’s area of focus is combining humanities and environmental issues to create effective and meaningful storytelling that renders real results. She studies English Literature and double-minors in Environmental Systems and Society and Environmental Engineering at UCLA.

1 Gender and climate change-induced migration: Proposing a framework for analysis. Author Namrata Chindarkar. Published by School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, College Park, USA. Published on 22 June 2012. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/254496452_Gender_and_climate_change-induced_migration_Proposing_a_framework_for_analysis
2 Berta Cáceres: 2015 Goldman Prize Recipient South and Central America. Published by The Goldman Environmental Prize. Retrieved from https://www.goldmanprize.org/recipient/berta-caceres/



 

Nos enfrentamos a las mayores amenazas para la bahía utilizando El Poder del Agua en 2020. Los siguientes tres objetivos son las áreas clave para este año:

 

Grito de alarma por el cambio climático

Qué estamos haciendo: Mitigando los impactos del cambio climático que alteran la vida empoderando a los ciudadanos a tomar mejores decisiones para crear un futuro sostenible y equitativo.

Cómo lo estamos haciendo: El agua es el área donde muchos notarán primero los efectos del cambio climático: la accesibilidad del agua en un clima cambiante es fundamental.

Examinamos detalladamente los planes de reutilización de aguas residuales de la ciudad de L.A., así como proyectos locales de captación de agua lluvia, para asegurarnos de que sean justos y efectivos. Y en el Acuario de Heal the Bay involucramos al público para tomar acciones diarias — como nuestra iniciativa “Una comida al día por el océano” — para mitigar las temperaturas extremas, la acidificación de los océanos y el aumento del nivel del mar.


Proteger la salud pública con programas de educación científica y comunitaria

Qué estamos haciendo: Protegiendo la salud pública a través de programas de educación científica y comunitaria sobre pesca y aguas contaminadas en playas y ríos de LA.

Cómo lo estamos haciendo: Extendiendo el alcance y rigor científico de nuestros programas como “Informe de playas”, “Informe de ríos” y “Educación pesquera” (Beach Report Card, River Report Card y Angler Outreach, por sus siglas en ingles) para incrementar el compromiso comunitario e institucional en temas que afectan directamente a la salud pública. Nuestro enfoque es en la contaminación, acceso, uso recreacional y consumo de pescado. Abogamos también por fuertes protecciones de calidad de agua y para mejorar las herramientas de concientización pública en las comunidades más afectadas.


Prohibir definitivamente el plástico de un solo uso

Qué estamos haciendo: Eliminando los desechos plásticos nocivos de nuestras playas y sistemas fluviales y restaurando la vitalidad de nuestro océano y cuencas hidrográficas.

Cómo lo estamos haciendo: Se necesita un cambio drástico en el uso del plástico de un solo uso porque menos del 10% es reciclado y el resto acaba en vertederos y entornos naturales. Estamos estableciendo una nueva campaña llamada “LA reutilizable” para fomentar una próspera cultura de reutilización y recarga en el condado de L.A., alentando de esta forma a la gente y negocios a no usar plástico y apoyar políticas que prohíban los plásticos desechables en el condado de LA y en todo California.


Únete

Haz voluntariado con nosotross

Contribuye a limpiar una playa

Visita nuestro Acuario

Dona

 


Este artículo fue traducido por Beatriz Lorenzo Botella y editado por Frankie Orrala.

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2019 ha sido una temporada legislativa emocionante en California. Desde proyectos de ley en torno al plástico que nos mueven incesantemente hacia una cultura de reaprovechamiento, hasta mejoras en el acceso costero para todos los californianos. Nuestro gobierno estatal ha logrado grandes avances en la aprobación de leyes ambientales. Heal the Bay ha estado abogando y siguiendo atentamente las proposiciones ambientales más importantes del 2019, y estamos entusiasmados con algunos de los avances que se han realizado este año.

Echemos un vistazo a los ganadores (y perdedores) del 2019.

De las miles de propuestas de ley presentadas a principios de este año, solo 1042 llegaron hasta el despacho del gobernador, de las cuales 870 fueron aprobadas y firmadas por el gobernador Newsom convirtiéndolas en ley. Entre ellas se encuentran algunas muy importantes como la Proposición AB 619, conocida también como Proposición BYO. Esta Proposición, presentada por el asambleísta Chiu, clarifica el lenguaje del código de salud pública en relación a los envases reutilizables, que facilita a los consumidores llevar sus propios envases a sus locales y restaurantes favoritos. Esta Proposición permite también que puestos de comida, como los que encontramos en ferias y festivales, usen utensilios reutilizables en lugar de desechables de un solo uso (que eran requeridos antes de que esta Proposición se aprobara). Esta Proposición reducirá enormemente los residuos en eventos temporales y podrás rellenar tu contenedor reutilizable donde vayas, ¡incluso en las “loncheras” (food trucks) y puestos de comida!.

El gobernador Newsom también aprobó la Proposición AB 1680 del asambleísta Limón y la convirtió en ley. Esta ley permitirá desarrollar un programa de acceso a las playas de Hollister Ranch, un área de 8.5 millas de costa que actualmente no tiene acceso público. Esta decisión trascendental permitirá el acceso público a estas playas tan especiales de Santa Barbara y es a la vez una gran victoria para todos los californianos.

Fumar en las playas del condado de Los Angeles se prohibió hace años, pero este no era el caso para el resto de California. El gobernador Newsom firmó el Proyecto de ley del Senado SB 8 (Senador Glazer) y lo convirtió en ley, por lo que ahora es ilegal fumar en cualquier playa o parque estatal en todo el estado. Las colillas de cigarros son los objetos más tirado y causan un enorme daño al medioambiente. Están hechas de plástico y cientos de sustancias químicas, son contaminantes y muy notorias en nuestras playas, parques y vías acuáticas. Esta Proposición ayudará a reducir esta basura tan común, y protegerá la salud de los visitantes de playas y parques.

Más Proposiciones que fueron aprobadas este año incluyen:

  • AB 65 – Protección costera y adaptación climática (infraestructura natural)
  • AB 209 – Programa de becas del patrimonio al aire libre
  • AB 762 – Aviso de salud sobre el consumo de mariscos
  • AB 834 – Programa sobre proliferación de algas nocivas
  • AB 912 – Manejo de especies marinas invasoras
  • AB 948 – Programa de conservación de Coyote Valley
  • AB 936 – Respuesta a derrames de petróleo – petróleo no flotante
  • AB 1162 – Prohibición de envases plásticos en hoteles para productos de cuidado personal
  • AB 1583 – Legislación sobre el desarrollo del mercado de reciclaje de California
  • SB 367 – Asistencia Técnica para proyectos y programas educacionales de conservación costera estatal
  • SB 576 – Programa de preparación climática

Aunque la aprobación de estas Proposiciones es un éxito enorme, no todas las propuestas ambientales fueron aprobadas.

El gobernador Newsom vetó la Proposición AB 792 (asambleísta Ting), una Proposición sobre el contenido de plástico reciclado que habría aumentado la cantidad de plástico reciclado usado para producir botellas de bebidas de plástico. Aunque el gobernador apoya este tipo de normativa, la Proposición fue considerada costosa para el Estado, y por eso no se aprobó. Heal the Bay y asociados esperan resolver los problemas de esta Proposición y poder presentar una versión mejorada el próximo año.

También vetado por el gobernador fue el Proyecto de ley del Senado SB 1 (Senador Atkins), una propuesta que habría promulgado la ley de defensa del medioambiente, la salud pública y los trabajadores de California de 2019. Esta legislación habría asegurado las protecciones laborales obtenidas bajo leyes federales, y también que las leyes y regulaciones medioambientales a partir de Enero de 2017 (como la ley de agua limpia o la ley de especies en peligro de extinción) hubiesen permanecido en orden en California en caso de cambios en las regulaciones federales. Básicamente habría sido un seguro medioambiental y de salud pública para prevenir recortes a nivel federal. El gobernador Newsom vetó este Proyecto de ley por discrepancias sobre su eficacia y necesidad. Heal the Bay apoya medidas como las propuestas en la SB 1 ya que son críticas para proteger los recursos naturales de nuestro estado. Desafortunadamente fue vetada.

Finalmente, el Proyecto de Ley del Senado SB 54 (Senador Allen) y la Proposición AB 1080 (asambleísta Gonzalez), también conocida como la Ley de economía circular y reducción de contaminación por plástico de California. Estas relevantes propuestas llegaron muy lejos, pero los arreglos de última hora y nueva oposición hicieron que no llegasen al plazo para ser aprobadas este año. Pero nada de nervios, la lucha no se ha terminado. Estos Proyectos serán elegibles para votacion a partir de Enero del 2020, y Heal the Bay y otros partidarios (¡todos y cada uno de los 426000!) continuarán luchando para que se aprueben estos Proyectos de ley para reducir integralmente la basura desechable y prevenir la contaminación por plástico en el Estado de California.

¿Tienes preguntas sobre nuestro trabajo de apoyo en Heal the Bay? ¿Te interesa saber qué Proposiciones son por las que estamos luchamos (a favor o en contra)? Síguenos en redes sociales (InstagramTwitterFacebook), y contacta a nuestro equipo de Ciencia y Leyes!.


Este artículo fue traducido por Beatriz Lorenzo Botella y editado por Frankie Orrala.

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first flush november 2019 heal the bay
Recent ‘first flushes’ from around LA in November 2019. From left to right: Long Beach (by Jim LaVally), Santa Monica (by Katherine Pease), Ballona Creek (by Patrick Tyrrell).

As winter rains quench the LA region, local stormwater pollution issues surface and wreak havoc on water quality. Heal the Bay releases its first-ever Stormwater Reporta groundbreaking assessment of how well stormwater pollution is being managed in Los Angeles County. 

Heal the Bay’s groundbreaking new Stormwater Report examines progress, or lack thereof, in stormwater pollution reduction efforts in LA County. We reviewed data from 12 watershed management groups who are responsible for implementing stormwater projects. Despite our region having had nearly 30 years to address stormwater pollution, and six years to execute the latest version of these plans, we found that, as of December 2018, the responsible groups that we looked at are only about 9% complete toward final goals. If the current rate of implementation continues, Los Angeles County groups will achieve their total collective goal in 2082, well past final deadlines ranging from 2021 to 2037.

Some areas have fast-approaching deadlines to meet strict stormwater pollution reduction limits. Yet many local cities are drastically behind, resulting in continued poor water quality across our region. Our report also reveals that monitoring and enforcing stormwater pollution is made more difficult by a lack of transparent reporting requirements and processes.

“Stormwater has the potential to be a wonderful resource for water supply, recreation, and so much more. But right now, it is more of a hazard polluting our waterways. We need to step up cleanup efforts if we are to see water quality improvements in our lifetimes. We should not have to wait 60 years for clean water,” says Annelisa Moe, Water Quality Scientist at Heal the Bay and lead author of the Stormwater Report.

Here are some of the major findings:

  • The Ballona Creek Watershed Management Group is 3.58% complete toward its final goal – their stormwater management projects can now capture 74.58 acre-feet of stormwater for treatment, out of their intended target of 2,081 acre-feet by 2021. (This group includes the Cities of Beverly Hills, Culver City, Inglewood, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and West Hollywood; Unincorporated County of Los Angeles; and the Los Angeles County Flood Control District.) Learn more on page A-3.
  • The Upper LA River Watershed Management Group is 2.72% complete toward its final goal – their stormwater management projects that can now capture 141.28 acre-feet of stormwater out of their intended target of 5,191 acre-feet by 2037. (This group includes the Cities of Alhambra, Burbank, Calabasas, Glendale, Hidden Hills, La Cañada Flintridge, Los Angeles, Montebello, Monterey Park, Pasadena, Rosemead, San Fernando, San Gabriel, San Marino, South El Monte, South Pasadena, and Temple City; Unincorporated County of Los Angeles; and the Los Angeles County Flood Control District.) Learn more on page A-57.
  • The Santa Monica Bay Jurisdictions 2 & 3 Watershed Management Group is 6.50% complete toward its final goal – their stormwater management projects can now capture 22.61 acre-feet of stormwater out of their intended target of 348.1 acre-feet by 2021. (This group includes the Cities of El Segundo, Los Angeles, and Santa Monica; Unincorporated County of Los Angeles; and the Los Angeles County Flood Control District.) Learn more on page A-51.
  • The Malibu Creek Watershed Management Group is 0.36% complete toward its final goal – their stormwater management projects can now capture 0.35 acre-feet of stormwater for treatment out of their intended target of 96.3 acre-feet by 2032. (This group includes the Cities of Agoura Hills, Calabasas, Hidden Hills, and Westlake Village; Unincorporated County of Los Angeles; and the Los Angeles County Flood Control District.) Learn more on page A-21.
  • Some good news: The Dominguez Channel Watershed Management Group is 60.06% complete toward its final goal – their stormwater management projects can now capture 771.39 acre-feet of stormwater out of their intended target of 1,284.30 acre-feet by 2032. This means that the Dominguez Channel Watershed management group is on track to reach their final goal before the deadline passes, assuming that the rate of implementation continues. This success is due to large regional projects completed in the Machado Lake area. (This group includes the Cities of Carson, El Segundo, Hawthorne, Inglewood, Lawndale, Lomita, and Los Angeles; Unincorporated County of Los Angeles; and the Los Angeles County Flood Control District.) Learn more on page A-15.

Progress report on local areas:
The graphic above is an overall aassessment of progress for each of the 12 watershed management groups, based on either total retention capacity in acre feet (AF) or total area addressed (acres). Each grey bar represents the final goal for each group, labelled with the final deadline to reach this goal. The orange portion of the bar represents the retention capacity of projects completed since the 2012 Los Angeles County MS4 Permit was approved, as a percentage of the total goal. Interim targets, when provided, are displayed with red vertical lines as a percentage of the total goal, and labeled with the relevant interim deadline year. A final goal was not provided in the Rio Hondo group, so progress cannot be displayed. Only an interim goal was provided in the Beach Cities group, so the final goal was uncertain, identified with a dashed line above.

While our Stormwater Report points out critical issues, we also offer solutions. We recommend clear and measurable guidelines regulators can adopt to strengthen the ability of watershed management groups to reduce stormwater pollution within their jurisdiction as quickly as possible. We also emphasize the importance of making stormwater pollution information readily available to the public, who are directly impacted by polluted waters (see more Recommendations on page 15).

So, what’s next? The LA County MS4 Permit, the primary mechanism for regulating city and county stormwater pollutant discharge, is up for renewal in early 2020. We are concerned that the MS4 Permit will be weakened and deadlines for stormwater pollution reduction goals will be extended, further delaying a much-needed cleanup of local waters. Simply put, groups must be held accountable when they are not on track.

Fortunately, there is new funding available to improve stormwater project implementation. Funding from the Safe, Clean Water Program will be allocated throughout LA County starting in spring 2020, increasing available funding for stormwater projects by approximately $280 million per year. This will more than double the annual amount spent by municipalities on stormwater projects in LA County. This revenue can be further leveraged with a variety of other sources to fund multi-benefit stormwater projects.

With long-term plans in place and new funding opportunities at hand, the approval of a strong 2020 LA County MS4 Permit will lead to more stormwater projects moving forward. Better stormwater management will significantly improve water quality throughout LA County, protecting both public and environmental health, while also providing multiple additional benefits to LA communities such as a new water supply, improved air quality, and climate resiliency.

“The power of local water in LA can only be realized if we protect and clean this precious resource,” says Dr. Shelley Luce, Heal the Bay’s CEO.

 

DOWNLOAD STORMWATER REPORT

DOWNLOAD PRESS RELEASE

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Download Local Summaries

Ballona Creek Watershed Management Group
Beach Cities Watershed Management Group
Dominguez Channel Watershed Management Group
Malibu Creek Watershed Management Group
Marina del Rey Watershed Management Group
North Santa Monica Bay Coastal Watersheds Management Group
Palos Verdes Peninsula Watershed Management Group
Rio Hondo / San Gabriel River Watershed Management Group
Santa Monica Bay Jurisdictions 2 & 3 Watershed Management Group
Upper Los Angeles River Watershed Management Group
Upper San Gabriel River Watershed Management Group
Upper Santa Clara River Watershed Management Group

 


We will keep you informed and may call on you to attend the MS4 Permit hearing in early 2020. To stay in the loop, sign up for Stormwater Pollution Action Alerts.

Stormwater Pollution Action Alerts

Sign up to receive Stormwater Pollution Action Alerts via email! We promise not to overload your inbox. 😉

 



Winter rains in Los Angeles County flush an enormous amount of pollution into our storm drains from our streets, sidewalks, and neighborhoods. Where does this pollution end up? Who is responsible for monitoring and regulating it? And what’s next in the efforts to reduce it? Join Annelisa Moe, Water Quality Scientist at Heal the Bay, as she dives into the underworld of LA rain.


So, we know that stormwater is a huge source of pollution for LA’s rivers, lakes, and ocean. But have you ever wondered why? Or wondered how we track and manage this pollution? Well, let’s get into it…

In Los Angeles County, we have a storm drain system and a sewage system which are completely separate. The storm drain system is called the municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4). Separating these systems reduces the risk of sewage spills when storms might flood our sewage system, and attempts to get stormwater out of our streets before they flood. However, this separated system is also the reason why stormwater flows directly into our rivers, lakes, and ocean without being filtered or treated, leading to serious water quality issues throughout LA County that threaten public and environmental health.

Two main types of water flows through the storm drain system: (1) Stormwater, which is rainwater that cannot infiltrate into the ground naturally and instead builds up as it flows over the ground surface, and (2) dry weather runoff, which originates when it is not raining through activities such as overwatering lawns, or washing cars.

Water quality is much worse within 72 hours of a significant rain event in LA County. Last year alone, rain in our region accounted for almost 200 billion gallons of stormwater flushing through our storm drain system and into local bodies of water.

20180828_081011 20180828_081006 2011-09-13_08-38-50_596 Flowing LA River Screen Shot 2019-11-25 at 12.25.35 PM
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Under the Federal Clean Water Act, anyone who discharges water is required to limit the concentration of pollution in that water. This requirement is regulated under a permit to discharge water. The discharge of polluted stormwater and dry weather runoff through the storm drain system is regulated by the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board through an MS4 Permit. Cities and counties are permittees under an MS4 Permit, and are each responsible for their polluted stormwater and dry weather runoff.

The LA County MS4 Permit has been around since 1990, but in 2012 water quality had not improved much at all since then. The last update to the permit occurred in 2012, and, to our dismay, the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board unanimously voted to approve a 2012 MS4 Permit that was even worse than before – essentially setting up a scheme of self-regulation (meaning no regulation).

By no longer forcing cities that discharge millions of gallons of runoff into the storm drain system to adhere to strict numeric pollution limits, the Board took a giant step backward in protecting water quality throughout Southern California.

Under the 2012 rules, cities just had to submit a plan for reducing stormwater pollution (called a Watershed Management Plan) to the Board and have it approved to be in compliance, rather than having to actually demonstrate they are not exceeding specific thresholds for specific pollutants, such as copper or E. coli bacteria. These plans allow each permittee to choose the types of projects to build, and the timeline on which to build them. But these plans are adjusted each year, continuously drawing out implementation, and they do not include any clear way to determine if the permittee is making good progress.

We knew that this would slow progress even more, leaving stormwater pollution unchecked at the expense of public safety and aquatic health. Seven years later, we have the numbers to prove it.

In the next few weeks, Heal the Bay will be releasing a new report assessing the progress toward managing stormwater pollution in Los Angeles County, and how we can fix the permit when it is renewed in early 2020.

In the meantime, we encourage you to safely document photos and videos of trashed waterways and beaches, clogged storm drains, and stormwater pollution in LA County after it rains. Remember, safety first! Proceed with caution, observe all posted signs, and watch out for heavy flowing water. If you do snag a good image, please tag your location, #LArain, @healthebay and #healthebay. You can also tag relevant government officials to help raise awareness.




Blaire, Olivia, and Luke collecting storm drain samples along the Elysian Valley.

Luke Ginger, Water Quality Scientist at Heal the Bay, recounts the latest season of freshwater monitoring, reveals the disappointingly poor water quality grades, and explains what this means for public health and the future of the LA River.

The summer of 2019 marked Heal the Bay’s sixth summer sampling in Malibu Creek State Park and the fifth summer sampling in the LA River freshwater recreation areas. Currently, there is no federal or state mandate or funding for monitoring freshwater recreation areas as there is for ocean beaches. So local freshwater stakeholders monitor water quality in LA County with their own funds. Heal the Bay samples in various places to fill in some of the sampling gaps left by those organizations.

This season, we regularly monitored the Rock Pool and Las Virgenes Creek in Malibu Creek State Park, the LA River at Burbank Boulevard, and three sites in the LA River near Elysian Valley. We also sample the storm drains along the Elysian Valley to help us understand the origin and amount of bacteria entering the LA River. In total, our team collected 96 river and stream samples, and about 84 storm drain samples.

 

Disappointing Findings, Yet Encouraging Outreach

Grades in the LA River recreation zones were disappointingly poor this summer. The four sites we tested had good water quality (green grades) just 16% of the time on average. That means bacteria levels exceeded at least one standard (yellow or red grades) 84% of the time in the LA River. Malibu Creek State Park sites had similar water quality where green grades were issued 19% and bacteria exceeded standards 81% of the time. For the public, this means that water quality presents indicates a risk for human illness more than 80% of the time.

In addition to protecting public health by reporting freshwater quality grades, our mission is to conduct outreach and get more people invested in improving the health of the LA River Watershed. This summer was jam-packed with events that allowed us to spread our message and make an impact. We tabled at events along the LA River, participated in river cleanups (including the first-ever Trash Blitz at Compton Creek) and also collaborated with Pacoima Beautiful, FOLAR and CSUN to educate high school students on water quality in the river. This fall, we are continuing our student outreach by giving lectures at local high schools and providing students hands-on experience collecting water samples.

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We tabled at the Wiltern for an Ice on Fire documentary event. We even got to take over the Wiltern’s Instagram account for the day!

Looking Forward

Protecting the public from potentially harmful water has been Heal the Bay’s mission for the past 30 years with the Beach Report Card, so our next step has been to provide the same water quality information for freshwater recreation areas. Because a healthy Bay starts with a healthy LA. To dive deeper into our freshwater work, check out our River Report Card. And stay tuned for the next release in Spring 2020, which will include a full assessment of these recent water quality grades.

We are also anxiously waiting for the release of the LA River Master Plan in December 2019, which is LA County Department of Public Works’ plan to revitalize parts of the river. We are eager to see an LA River that supports both nature and the surrounding communities without displacing them, so we urge everyone to follow the LA River Master Plan updates and get involved.


Our monitoring program also got some attention in the media!



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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Annelisa Moe and Luke Ginger, Heal the Bay water quality scientists, converse quietly during the public comment period. (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!



River Report CardLas áreas acuáticas para nado y recreación en el condado de Los Angeles brindan oportunidades importantes para quienes disfrutan y valoran la naturaleza de nuestros ríos y arroyos. Desafortunadamente, existe poca información o notificación pública de la calidad del agua por parte del estado. Como resultado, carecemos de datos estandarizados y la información disponible para el público es mínima y difícil de interpretar.

Durante más de 30 años, Heal the se ha dedicado a hacer que las aguas costeras y cuencas hidrográficas del sur de California sean seguras, saludables y limpias.

Desde 1991, Heal de Bay ha priorizado la salud pública, informando y educando a la comunidad sobre la calidad del agua de nuestras playas a través de nuestro “Boletín Informativo de Playas” (BRC, por sus siglas en inglés).  Evaluar la calidad del agua en áreas de recreación acuática y brindar información al público en el condado de L.A. fue el siguiente gran paso de Heal the Bay. Un día de esparcimiento en las vías fluviales del condado de Los Ángeles no debería enfermar a nadie, por tal razón se estableció en el 2014 un programa de monitoreo en los sitios de recreación acuática y se desarrolló en el 2017 el programa River Report Card (RRC) o “Boletín Informativo de Ríos” para brindar al público información de fácil comprensión sobre la calidad del agua.

El RRC asigna calificaciones con los colores verde, amarillo y rojo en función a los niveles de contaminación bacteriana. Esto difiere del BRC de Heal the Bay, que asigna calificaciones a las playas con letras que van de la A a F; sin embargo, consideramos esta evaluación como un informe de calificaciones y nos referimos a los códigos de colores como calificaciones.

Desarrollamos una metodología de clasificación de verde, amarillo y rojo, así como también de sitios clasificados según los niveles de bacterias indicadoras de contaminación fecal. Verde indica buena calidad de agua con niveles de bacterias indicadoras de contaminación fecal bajo los límites permitidos por autoridades de salud. Amarillo indica que al menos uno o más exceden los límites permitidos y que puede aumentar el riesgo de adquirir enfermedades. Finalmente, el color rojo indica mayor riesgo de salud donde todos o casi todos los niveles de bacterias indicadoras de contaminación fecal superan los límites permitidos.

El “Boletín Informativo de Ríos” es el informe de calidad de agua más completo hasta la fecha en áreas de recreación acuática del área de Los Angeles. El conjunto de datos es recopilado por Heal the Bay, Programa de Monitoreo de la Cuenca del Río Los Angeles (LARWMP, por sus siglas en inglés), Oficina de Sanidad y Medio Ambiente (LASAN, por sus siglas en inglés) de la Ciudad de L.A. y Programa de Monitoreo Regional del Río San Gabriel (SGRRMP, por sus siglas en inglés). Los datos analizados fueron monitoreados durante la temporada seca 2017 y 2018 y cubre 27 sitios en su totalidad en tres cuencas hidrogróficas que son utilizadas para nado, pesca y kayak. Datos previos a estos años también están disponibles desde 2014, pero solo para determinados sitios. Se realizaron pruebas para detectar bacterias indicadoras de contaminación fecal que indican la presencia de microorganismos y virus que causan infecciones, irritación de la piel, enfermedades respiratorias y enfermedades gastrointestinales.

En todos los 27 sitios del año 2018, el 57% de las calificaciones fué de color verde, el 25% amarilla y el 18% roja. Las áreas urbanas tienden a tener calificaciones más bajas que las áreas naturales. Los sitios en las zonas de recreación de la cuenca del río de Los Angeles están rodeados principalmente de paisajes urbanos y tuvieron calificaciones más bajas que los otros sitios en este informe. Los sitios en las zonas de recreación del río de Los Angeles obtuvo 38% verde, 36% amarillo y 26% rojo. Los sitios de la cuenca del río San Gabriel y los sitios de la parte alta de la cuenca del río de Los Angeles obtuvieron las mejores calificaciones en general, probablemente porque se encuentran en paisajes naturales y no recibieron aguas de descargas urbanas que contienen contaminantes. Los sitios en la cuenca del río San Gabriel, que se encuentran en áreas naturales, obtuvieron 84% verde, 11% amarillo y 5% rojo para el 2018; los sitios de la parte alta de la cuenca del río de Los Angeles obtuvieron 70% verde, 13% amarillo y 17% rojo.

Los sitios de la cuenca de Malibu Creek se encuentran en un parque estatal y sus alrededores son en su mayoría áreas naturales, con algunos desarrollos urbanos en la parte alta de la cuenca. Estos sitios obtuvieron mejores calificaciones que los sitios en las zonas de recreación de la cuenca del río de Los Angeles, pero obtuvieron calificaciones más bajas que los sitios de la cuenca del río San Gabriel o de la parte alta de la cuenca del río de Los Angeles. Los sitios de la cuenca de Malibu Creek obtuvieron 50% verde, 39% amarillo y 11% rojo en el 2018.

Figura 1: Porcentajes de calificación de calidad de agua 2017 y 2018 para los sitios de monitoreo en el condado de Los Ángeles:  Cuenca de Malibu Creek, zonas de recreación de la cuenca del río Los Angeles, parate alta de la cuenca del río Los Angeles y cuenca del río San Gabriel. Los colores verde, amarillo y rojo son mostrados para cada área y temporada.

Los dos sitios con porcentajes más altos en color rojo para el 2018 correspondieron a Hansen Dam (80%) en la parte alta del río de Los Angeles y Rattlesnake Park (58%) en la zona de recreación Elysian Valley del río de Los Angeles. Sin embargo, seis sitios obtuvieron 100% color verde; cuatro de estos sitios están en la cuenca del río San Gabriel y dos en la parte alta de la cuenca del río Los Angeles. En comparación con el año 2017, las calificaciones del 2018 en general, mejoraron para la cuenca de Malibu Creek,  cuenca del Río San Gabriel y para las zonas de recreación de la Cuenca del Río de Los Angeles (el porcentaje para las calificaciones con color verde aumentó)

Al examinar los sitios individualmente, 15 de los 27 sitios obtuvieron un mayor porcentaje de calificación con color verde para el 2018 en comparación con 2017, 9 sitios obtuvieron un menor porcentaje de color verde y 3 no tuvieron cambios. En todo el condado, la proporción de calificación en rojo emitidos del 2017 a 2018 disminuyó en un 1%, y el porcentaje de calificaciones verde disminuyó en un 2%. Por lo tanto, a pesar de los aumentos observados en la calidad del agua, las disminuciones superaron ligeramente a los mismos.

Desde que Heal the Bay comenzó a monitorear los sitios acuáticos de recreación y hacer público los datos de calidad del agua, los cambios han sido positivos e incluyen:

  • Aumento del monitoreo bacteriano en zonas de recreación del Río de Los Angeles, tanto en sitios como frecuencias, realizados por LASAN.
  • Mayor notificación pública por medio de letreros acerca de la calidad del agua a lo largo de las zonas de recreación del Río de Los Angeles, realizados por LASAN.
  • Mayor difusión pública e información sobre la calidad del agua a través de correos electrónicos, sitios web y otros medios en línea por parte de las agencias que recopilan la información (LARWMP, LASAN y SGRRMP).

Basados en este informe, recomendaciones adicionales para proteger la salud pública incluyen:

  • Notificación y monitoreo estandarizado en todo el estado y región para áreas acuáticas de recreación; designando responsables para el monitoreo y notificación, y recomendar una legislación o algo similar a la Ley de Calidad del Agua de las Playas (AB411) que proporcione financiamiento y monitoreos estandarizados a los condados que realicen la labor.
  • El monitoreo debe incluir los Enterococcus, así como también E. coli para proteger la salud pública y debe incluir la media geométrica en los avisos de calidad del agua.
  • La notificación pública debe incluir la publicación de carteles sobre la calidad del agua en todos los sitios de recreación acuática, en inglés y español.

Personas dirigiendose a áreas de recreación acuática  pueden consultar el Boletín Informativo de Playas de Heal the Bay www.healthebay.org/riverreportcard Es recommendable ducharse con agua y jabón después de cualquier contacto directo con el agua para poder minimizar cualquier riesgo de salud.

 



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

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

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

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

Here are some of the major findings:

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

Download Report in English

Read Executive Summary in Spanish

Download Press Release

Donate to Heal the Bay

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

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

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


About the River Report Card

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

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

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

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

Interested in learning more? Contact our team!