Each Memorial Day marks the beginning of the LA River recreation season and the beginning of LA River monitoring for Council for Watershed Health (CWH). Inspired by the need to educate and engage Angelenos with the watershed, our #SummerScienceFriday blog series runs through our monitoring season from Memorial Day to Labor Day. This year marks the twelfth monitoring season for CWH and the third year of our community engagement initiative #SummerScienceFridays! We hope you will stay tuned all summer as we connect communities to their watershed and empower them to take action toward stewardship.
The Los Angeles River Watershed Monitoring Program (LARWMP)
Here we are again, ushering in a new LARWMP monitoring season! We have been here before and although not much is new (except State Water Board's mandated Trash Assessments), every LARWMP season is exciting and the information we collect continues to be more pivotal to managing the health of the watershed. For the last 12 years, CWH’s Science Team has collected water samples at recreational sites and reported on the health of Los Angeles River Watershed (LARW). With support from the City of Los Angeles, Los Angeles Sanitation and Environment, the City of Burbank, Burbank Public Works, and LARWMP’s technical stakeholders, LARWMP collects data to inform our foundational understanding of the health of the LARW. For the last decade, this continuous monitoring effort has provided the necessary information to identify trends across the watershed, to inform better decisions, stronger planning efforts, and better-informed outreach and education about the health of the river, including how to use it safely.
Monitoring data is important because it helps us understand how the river is responding to a complex web of pressures ranging from pollution, human alteration, to drought and climate change.
As part of the “Safe to Recreate” portion of LARWMP, CWH collects water samples during the LA River recreation season from Memorial to Labor Day. The water samples are used to monitor the E. Coli concentrations at regulated and unregulated recreation sites during high visitation periods. Our team has already hit the trails 3 times this week alone and the newest to our Science Team are loving it! Blown away by the beautiful trails to Hermit Falls, Sturtevant Falls and Eaton Canyon, they just can’t get enough! We hope it stays that way as the monitoring season is set to last for a whole 15 weeks. During that time, our team will hike to Hermit Falls, Sturtevant Falls, and Eaton Canyon another 17 times! Keep an eye out on weekends and holidays as we monitor during those high-use periods.
We monitor during high visitation times to ensure it is safe for crowds (and to see if crowds have any effect on water quality). This Memorial Day we counted almost 60 visitors at Sturtevant Falls (pictured above)! As we monitor, and especially with large crowds, we are often asked if the water is clean enough to swim and there a couple answers we can provide. Every year following the monitoring season, we report on the results and trends of bacteria levels at these recreation sites (View our LARWMP Reports). So, we might answer that a site has been safe to recreate on average, although that doesn’t answer whether it is safe today.
For the most up to date information on LA River water quality status, we encourage all to visit LA Sanitation & Environment’s (LASAN) webpage, Los Angeles River Quality. LASAN posts the most recent E.coli levels in the Sepulveda Basin and Elysian Valley Recreation Zones and at other unregulated swim sites, including the sites that we monitor. Sites are given a status label of Open, Open (Caution), Closed, or MRCA Closure depending on the levels of E.coli measured in water samples and water quality risk events in the watershed.
For safe recreation this season, be sure to follow LASAN’s water safety procedures:
Do not swallow the water
Do not swim with open wounds
Avoid swimming within 72 hours of a rain event
Avoid water if you have a suppressed immune system
Avoid any water contact at sites labeled “closed”
As mentioned, the goal of #SummerScienceFridays is to empower watershed stewards to take action for the wellbeing of the Los Angeles River Watershed. Through informative blog posts and a diverse range of topics, we strive to connect the LA community to their waterways and to guide them toward stewardship.
New this year, we are excited to announce that we are expanding our blog to include a focus on the intersection between water and power! Through our Watershed Connections partnership with Southern California Edison (SCE), these topics will highlight how the water-energy nexus affects the watershed and how we can combat those challenges.
This blog series will be part of our continued Water Connections partnership through which we have reached countless Angelenos with our interactive Watershed Connections demonstration and activity book. The Watershed Connections Activity Book and its interactive lessons have fostered enriching interactions at outreach events and on school campuses. In fact, most recently, our outreach team attended two events where they had over 100 engagements with our activity book and demonstration. That’s 100 more people connected to their watershed! Now, we are thrilled to expand these efforts through our #SummerScienceFriday blog series. Thank you to our partner Southern California Edison for making this blog season a special one.
To keep up with #SummerScienceFriday posts check our blog every Friday afternoon and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!
To view our testing sites and LARWMP’s most recent findings, visit our Los Angeles River Watershed Monitoring Program webpage.
We’d love to hear from you! Use this online form to reach our Science Team with a question or to share a #SummerScienceFridays topic of interest.
Many thanks to our #SummerScienceFriday partner