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#SummerScienceFriday | Be #WatershedActive: Recreation Guide

CWH Senior Scientist, Yareli Sanchez, and Staff Scientist, Courtney Bonilla, monitoring Eaton Canyon on May 31, 2019 #LARWMP

With the Summer season heating up, many Angelenos are looking for easy and fun ways to beat the heat and enjoy the sunshine. Here at CWH, we believe that the best way to do that is to get active in your watershed! This summer, we encourage you to share your recreation and watershed-related experiences by using the hashtag #WatershedActive on your social media accounts! Check out our LA #WatershedActive Recreation Guide at the bottom of this post for safety reminders, recreation ideas, and watershed stewardship tips. Next week, we will expand on even more ways to be active in the LA Watershed.

We created the LA #WatershedActive Recreation Guide (below) because CWH knows that an important step to empowering watershed stewards is creating awareness about what the watershed has to offer. Here in the Los Angeles River Watershed, we have trails that lead to refreshing pools of water, the LA River to kayak in, lakes for fishing, and open spaces to explore. With the many outdoor adventures available to Angelenos, it is always important to act as stewards to the watershed and its waterways. Especially with about 4.5 million people living in the watershed, our cumulative actions have the power to affect the health of the Los Angeles River and its water quality. While trash has its adverse effects, it is pathogens and bacteria from fecal matter that can cause people recreating on the river to get sick (2).

One way to act as a steward is to take actions that prevent E. Coli bacteria from entering our waterways. E. Coli is a common and potentially dangerous group of bacteria that is found in the digestive systems of humans and animals. Many strains of E. Coli are benign, and some strains are even beneficial for the health of your digestive system, but high concentrations of E.Coli are linked to more dangerous diseases like salmonella and giardia (4). Since E.Coli enters the environment through fecal matter, one of the simplest ways to reduce the amount of E. Coli in our waterways is to make sure all pet waste, diapers and toilet paper are cleaned up and disposed of properly in a receptacle and away from water bodies. Proper disposal reduces the amount of E. Coli that gets washed into the LA River when it rains. Another way to reduce E.Coli is to be aware of which outdoor sites have restrooms and to take proper care and precautions before visiting.

Surface Water Quality Trends at Recreation Sites

Throughout the LA River Watershed, water recreation zones are monitored for water quality and safety by Council for Watershed Health and partner organizations. Under the “Safe to Recreate” portion of the Los Angeles River Watershed Monitoring Program (LARWMP), we monitor bacteria that can negatively impact human health. Each year, we produce a LARWMP Report (Read our Monitoring Reports here) summarizing our findings; every five years, we publish a State of the LA River Watershed Report (SOW) (See the 2018 State of the Watershed Report here). Under the Los Angeles Basin Plan for recreational swimming, and according to State of California water recreation standards, there must be less than 235 E. Coli bacteria per 100mL of water in order to meet the REC-1 water quality objective (1).

To help you all understand the trends about which sites have been "Safe to Recreate" in the past, we have summarized surface water quality trends from the 2018 State of the LA River Watershed Report. These are not predictions nor recommendations about where to recreate but rather a summary of water quality data collected by LARWMP from 2009-2017.

Always be sure to check the Los Angeles River Quality webpage to get the most current information about E. Coli concentrations in LA River recreation areas.

Summary of Surface Water Quality Trends at Recreation Sites from 2009-2017

Due to the variability of much of the data, we cannot predict whether it is safe to swim in recreation areas, however, it may be beneficial for the public to be aware of water quality trends at recreation sites from the 2018 State of the LA River Watershed Report.

From LARWMP’s 2009-2017 monitoring effort, it was found that most of the samples collected from recreation sites met REC-1 water quality standards (1) (see list of trends at recreation sites below). However, two sites in particular had recurring, high E.Coli concentrations: Hansen Dam and Sepulveda Basin at Balboa Blvd. At Hansen Dam 90% of the samples exceeded REC-1 objectives, while in the Sepulveda Basin at Balboa Blvd, 50% of the samples exceeded the water quality objectives (1). Below is the list of trends at recreation sites from the 2018 State of the LA River Watershed Report.

Sites where average samples MET REC-1 water quality objectives from 2009-2017:

Hidden Springs

Big Tujunga

Switzer Falls

Sturtevant Falls

Gould Mesa Campground

Millard Campground

Peck Road Park

Eaton Canyon

Hermit Falls

Bull Creek

LA River Sepulveda Basin

Sepulveda Dam

Rattle Snake Park

Steelhead Park

Site where HALF of average samples EXCEEDED REC-1 water quality objectives from 2009-2017: Sepulveda Basin Balboa Blvd

Site where average samples EXCEEDED REC-1 water quality objectives from 2009-2017: Hansen Dam

While these trends inform better management of the watershed, it is also important for people who recreate to be aware of the trends and to be engaged with the status of the watershed. We hope that you feel knowledgable about safe water recreation and that you will refer to this LA #WatershedActive Recreation Guide to enjoy the watershed safely! Click to enlarge.

Sources Cited

Remember to tag us in your photos this summer with #WatershedActive and stay connected with us!

Instagram- @watershedhealth

Facebook- @CouncilforWatershedHealth

Twitter- 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!

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