“Profiles in Environmentalism” is a recurring column on our blog where we shine a light on the dedicated people who are working to preserve the world around them. Big or small, local or national, every environmental organization works towards the same goal: providing a greener world for future generations.

Keeping our waterways safe for generations to come is an important and achievable task. Far too often, we do not understand how the choices we make effect our natural water sources. Education about pollution in the waterways is one way we can pass on the importance of keeping our water sources clean. Another way we can show future generations about our commitment to our environment is to do our part and help out by cleaning our natural water sources.

LA Waterkeeper 

The Los Angeles Waterkeeper (LA Waterkeeper) is part of the world’s fastest growing environmental movement, known as the Waterkeeper alliance. The LA Waterkeeper is dedicated to protecting and restoring the Santa Monica Bay, San Pedro Bay, and adjacent waterways in LA County. They accomplish their goals through the means of fieldwork with volunteers and professionals, as well as with community action and legal enforcement. LA Waterkeeper is an organization committed to making our Earth and our waterways a better place for generations to come.

The organization was first created in 1993 by Terry Tamminen and his team. They started out by patrolling the Santa Monica Bay and identifying where the pollution was originating from. Once they determined the source of the pollution, they took action to stop it. After twenty years of service, their organization has grown immensely and took on the name Los Angeles Waterkeeper. Through their programs and lawsuits, they have decreased sewage spills into rivers and beaches of LA County by 83% since 2004. This organization is associated with numerous programs dedicated to protecting and cleaning the waterways in the Los Angeles area.

DrainWatch Program

One of the most important aspects of protecting waterways in Los Angeles, is monitoring water quality. The DrainWatch program, organized by the LA Waterkeeper, determines the sources of the pollution impacting Los Angeles’ beaches, rivers, streams and neighborhoods. This program is comprised of volunteers who are trained to conduct data collection, water sampling and monitoring of the waterways, storm drains, and beaches along the Los Angeles coast.  Volunteers in this program gain hands on field experience and laboratory practice.

Within the DrainWatch program is the Storm Water Assessment Team (S.W.A.T.) and the Urban Trash Survey.  S.W.A.T. is a special project team dedicated to determining the sources of pollution and stop them in their tracks. They are committed to ending the pollution created from industrial facilities through investigative water sampling and litigation work. Volunteers collect storm water runoff from industrial facilities when it rains. They check for harmful pollutants such as zinc, mercury, fecal bacteria, oil and grease. This water is tested and then legal action is taken if harmful pollutants are found.

The Urban Trash Survey is a volunteer based project, studying the trash in the rivers from Santa Barbara to San Diego. They characterize and quantify trash and help determine sources and transport mechanisms associated with river and marine debris. The data collected from the volunteers is used to educate community members as well as empower policy makers to make a stand. This volunteer project requires thorough training and creates an informed view on pollution from the community and government.

Kelp Restoration Project

Another project sponsored by the LA Waterkeeper is the Kelp Restoration Project. This project is dedicated to the revival of more than 50 acres of kelp forest habitat on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Kelp forest are play a vital role in ocean ecosystems, providing shelter and acting as a fish nursery for many key species. Southern California kelp forest has been deteriorating due to the over population of the purple sea urchin species. These sea urchins are major predators to the kelp forests, and the kelp simply can’t keep up. Ideally, there should be about two urchins per square meter, but the purple sea urchins have grown to a population of up to 70 per square meter. To restore the kelp forest, some of the sea urchins must be culled.

The concept of culling is usually referred to as a bad thing but in the case of kelp restoration, it is extremely necessary. A large portion of the purple urchins must be culled to eliminate the risk of extinction for the kelp forest. The urchins will be culled on the ocean floor, one at a time, by trained and supervised SCUBA divers. The project is expected to be complete within four years due to the multiple locations of the program. LA Waterkeeper will monitor the project during the entire process and the monitoring will continue for five years after the work is finished.

Volunteer SCUBA divers can assist with the project and receive hands on experience while under the supervision of marine biologists. Over the past 100 years, due to hunting, pollution and over fishing in Los Angeles, the kelp forest has been reduced by 75%. Since the kelp forest is home to more than 800 species, work needs to be done to maintain kelp forest habitat. LA Waterkeeper works in association with a number of different organizations to help achieve their goal of restoring the kelp forest and all the species residing in this forest.

Los Angeles Waterkeeper is an active organization committed to protecting the waterways of Santa Monica bay, San Pedro bay and all other nearby water sources. This organization is always on the lookout for volunteers and you can contact them at any time to donate your time or services. Through their field based programs and advocacy, our rivers, beaches and streams are being protected to ensure the right to swimmable, drinkable and fishable waters for all.