The coast of LA is a stunning place, full of unique and diverse natural regions. Miles of coastline, offshore islands, and even a mountain range dot its shores. This is a beach lover’s paradise, and there is one type of beachgoer that is particularly prominent here: surfers. For environmentalists like LA Waterkeeper, making sure these ocean-faring friends have the most up-to-date water quality information is the most important part of their work.

Los Angeles Waterkeeper updates the water quality information for more than 60 beaches along the coast of California. Through the work of staff and trained volunteers, LA Waterkeeper conducts hands-on monitoring, data collection, and water sampling.

What are they looking for? Unlike basic water quality monitoring that focuses on identifying bacteria alone, LA Waterkeeper’s analyses run deeper. They’re looking for industrial pollution, metals, and trash, too. And this fall, the group’s monitoring schedule was busier than ever.

Waste washes ashore

At the end of September, Los Angeles’s Dockweiler State Beach was closed after waste started washing up along the coast. Among the trash, were items that should never be flushed to begin with, including hypodermic needles and feminine hygiene products.

What was going on? Usually, LA’s wastewater is discharged 500 metres offshore – and water users along the coast don’t often come into contact with it. But a heavy storm caused 200 million gallons of treated wastewater to be diverted just a mile away from the shore. Scheduled repairs on the farther pipe, which began just days after the heavy rain, caused even more waste to be diverted to the closer pipeline over days that followed.

LA Waterkeeper was in full outreach mode, making sure the public knew to avoid these areas after the storm, and all heavy rainfalls. Contact with contaminated water can lead to a variety of illnesses, not to mention the dangers of coming into contact with items like hypodermic needles.

A major victory for LA Waterkeeper

Amidst all of the media attention and challenges from September’s sewage spill, LA Waterkeeper continued working on other fronts – and experienced some major success. In September, the U.S. District Court Judge denied a challenge from fishing organizations to remove protections from critical otter habitat off the coast of LA.

The area had been deemed a “no-otter zone” since 1987, partly in an effort to protect the small mammals. But the no-otter zone was detrimental to the species, and many died trying to swim around the zone to their natural habitat. The zone was eventually terminated in 2012 after years of avoidable otter deaths.

September’s ruling could help the sea otters reinhabit their historic range in southern California, an occurrence that would be monumentally valuable for the health of marine ecosystems and kelp forests. You can read more about LA Waterkeeper’s hard work on the project here.

Their role in Swim Guide

LA’s unique microclimates make the coast home to a range of diverse creatures and plants, along with swimmers, surfers, and beachgoers. And like much of our most stunning natural places, it needs the help of dedicated individuals so that it may maintain its integrity.

Photo by Marc Cooper

LA Waterkeeper has a long history with Swim Guide. Affiliates of the program since 2012, they work tirelessly to protect their coastline through community outreach, water quality testing, and species monitoring. They train volunteers and work with their community to make everyone an advocate for the water we all share.

LA Waterkeeper is taking big steps to protect natural habitats and preserve the beautiful places we all love to enjoy. We are proud to have them as an affiliate. You can learn more about them here.

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