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Summer of Cattle Canyon

The Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers have been popular sites of nature recreation in Los Angeles for several years. Council for Watershed Health has been monitoring the water quality of streams, lakes, and other water bodies in this upper watershed track changes in water quality and to ensure the water is safe for human use. Over the years, CWH has been using data from these efforts to create “The State of the Los Angeles River Report”. This program, is now being expanded to include the San Gabriel River.

The new monitoring will be focused on sites in the San Gabriel Canyon located east of Azusa in the Angeles National Forest. This area was chosen because it is a popular destination for camping, hiking, swimming, and other types of recreation, especially during the summer months.

While use of LA’s nature can be an important and healthy pastime for residents, easy accessibility and high visitation of San Gabriel River sites has provoked concern by some that recreational use could be impacting the integrity of the streams and produce negative public health outcomes in people who enter the water. This concern led to the partnership of the Council for Watershed Health with Watershed Conservation Authority (WCA) to create a monitoring program that would study the summer recreation’s impact on San Gabriel Canyon through water quality sampling and habitat assessments on five different sites along the West, North, and East forks of San Gabriel River. The program will study the health of the river and seeks to answer the following questions:

  1. What is the condition of stream reaches that are used heavily for recreation?

  2. Are conditions of these reaches getting better or worse?

  3. Is it safe to swim in these reaches?

The program will attempt to answer these questions by sampling fecal indicator bacteria, conducting physical habitat assessments using the California Rapid Assessment Method (CRAM), and watershed condition monitoring. Spanning twenty water sampling dates and five habitat assessment dates between the end of May and Early September, this program also provides a great opportunity to educate aspiring environmental workers on the fundamentals of field work as part of the Next Generation Intern program. Under the leadership of Dr. Christopher Solek, interns are taught the protocols of collecting water samples, taking basic water chemistry measurements, conducting trash surveys, and engaging with people in the field, while they get to experience and learn about the natural habitat and native plants of Southern California.

The 2016 interns have already used their fresh perspective to create swim surveys that provide qualitative information about local streams to the public. These surveys collect information on visitors' behaviors and attitudes about how they use the stream and gather data about the demographics of visitors and the frequency of their visits. This information provides a baseline dataset for future research and educational outreach.

Using the data from these monitoring efforts, the Council for Watershed Health plans to release a comprehensive report and presentation for the San Gabriel Canyon monitoring program in early 2017. This monitoring program promotes CWH's commitment to advancing the health and sustainability of regional watersheds and serves as a great educational tool for interns to gain further insight about the environmental field.​

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