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Watershed Education through Multi-benefit Projects

Council for Watershed Health teams up with Friends of the Los Angeles River to bring Watershed Education through multi-benefit project on Edwin Markham Middle School campus.

In response to California's extreme drought and the need for water resilience, Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has undertaken a comprehensive program of water stewardship initiatives that include stormwater capture drought-tolerant landscaping, and education and awareness campaigns designed to increase water conservation behavior. LAUSD's Stormwater Management Policy established the integration Low Impact Development (LID) design principles and Best Management Practices (BMPs) into new and existing schools receiving significant facility improvements. Low Impact Development Best Management Practices (LID BMPs) mini the slow, spread and sink functions of a natural watershed, thereby resulting in multiple benefits that include: reduced flooding, and increased water quality and infiltration of runoff.

LAUSD completed Facilities Condition Assessments for several schools and identified high priority repair projects that were also opportunities to integrate LID BMPs. With supplemental funding from both Proposition 84 and the Drought Response Outreach Program for Schools (DROPS), six LAUSD schools received funding from California State Water Resources Control Board for improved projects that feature LID BMPs and education and awareness activities.

Edwin Markham Middle School was chosen to undergo improvements that included stormwater management strategies; permeable pavers, pervious asphalt, turf block, vegetated bioswales and bioretention areas and climate-appropriate landscaping.

This school year, CWH partnered with the Friends of the Los Angeles River (FoLAR) to facilitate a series of Professional Development Workshops for teachers and staff to learn about the LID BMPs and how to incorporate into existing curricula as outdoor living laboratories. The educators were provided a detailed classroom presentation of the program and then taken on a campus site tour (during a rain event) that offered the opportunity to view each BMP in action. The tour allowed for a direct explanation of each individual element including how they work and how they are helping to improve the overall impacts of stormwater runoff to both the campus and the surrounding area. The final session of the workshop series was an existing visit by FoLAR's River Rover. The River Rover visit brought the past, present and future of the Los Angeles River right to the Markham campus. Students and teachers had the chance to explore, learn and discover how their campus is connected to the Los Angeles River and watershed.

“The Low Impact Development Program: Living Laboratory at Markham Middle School is an impressive improvement to their campus with strategic BMPs that FoLAR were able to witness in action during these much needed rains. The comparison of the permeable asphalt next to the older asphalt during the rain event was truly remarkable. This campus should be the model for all LAUSD campuses across the County. The teachers and staff that met with FoLAR were/are eager to learn about what programs we had to offer their school. FoLAR was able to take the Los Angeles River Rover, our Mobile Museum, and highlight the Compton Creek Watershed for the students and teachers in order to understand where they are located within that system. The teachers and students both were totally engaged with the hands-on activities that the River Rover had to offer and made learning much more fun and easy.”

(William Preston Bowling, FoLAR)

As we adapt and gear up for the changing climate, continuing to invest in the benefits of LID BMPs on school campuses will offer a pivotal stepping-stone towards improving the education framework on stormwater management, reduce climate effects such as urban heat island, and empower students and community members to be environmental stewards. Improving the way we approach and manage stormwater will help us to educate and inspire others to rethink and redesign campuses, parks and open spaces for years to come.

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