There are blogs that present a problem, freak you out and leave you without a solution. This is not one of those blogs.
This is a blog that will show you exactly what you can do to help right now, today and make a difference not only across the entire County of Los Angeles, but in the essential water quality of our oceans (which, by the way, sustain us and all life on the planet). And, to do so, you must act by this Tuesday, March 12!
(Information to do so is at the bottom of the blog.)
In 2011, the International Program on the State of the Ocean brought together experts and scientists from different ocean disciplines — including, coral reef ecologists, toxicologists and fisheries scientists — to compare notes on the health of the oceans. What they found was troubling, to say the least. Summing everything up, they warned that ocean life is “at high risk of entering a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history.”
They concluded that issues such as over-fishing, pollution and climate change are acting together in ways that have not previously been recognized (including: ocean acidification, coral reef die-offs, dead zones in the oceans… more…). If you factor in that more than 70% of the oxygen we breathe comes from ocean organisms, you may begin to get that creeping feeling in your spine that you understand the urgency of the situation:
As goes the health of the oceans, goes the health of the humans.
Fortunately, the U.S. Government hasn’t been sitting still on this one (see instead, “Climate Change,” but I digress). In 1972, Congress approved the Clean Water Act and established the basic structure for regulating pollutants discharged into the waters of the United States.
In California, water quality in waterways is regulated by the State Water Resources Control Board and, closer to home, the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board. These boards have one unanimous consensus: nearly all water bodies in Los Angeles County do not meet water quality standards. They are, in fact, listed as “impaired” under the federal Clean Water Act.
Why is that?
Us. You and me, and that guy over there. And her. And him.
This will explain it better…
In its natural state, open space in the Los Angeles area used to absorb most rainfall into the ground, naturally filtering and cleansing this water as it percolated down. However urban development has introduced hard surfaces, such as asphalt and concrete, to the Los Angeles landscape that disrupt this natural process. Now rainwater rushes along streets, picking up trash and pollution as it flows, depositing this pollution into lakes, rivers, and eventually the ocean and beaches. During a typical storm, billions of gallons of water rush directly into the ocean.
The Polluted runoff has consequences
- The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health posts warning signs on beaches hundreds of times each year due to bacterial contamination. Swimming in this contaminated water can lead to gastroenteritis, ear, nose and throat infections, as well as cause other serious health problems.
- Every year, thousands of children and adults contract a gastrointestinal disease after swimming at a Los Angeles County beach or lake.
- Hundreds of thousands of tons of trash from our streets wash up on Los Angeles County beaches every year.
- Every year hundreds of seals, sea lions, and dolphins along the California shoreline are found dead. These deaths are attributed to pollution and reduced food sources.
- There is an oxygen-starved “dead zone” off the Los Angeles County coastline at the outlet of the San Gabriel River, according to NASA’s Goddard Earth Sciences Center. Excess fertilizers from our lawns and yards flow into the ocean and feed blooms of algae, which are decomposed by oxygen-sucking bacteria. Without enough oxygen, fish and shellfish suffocate. Only worms and jellyfish remain. Click here for more info.
Hard, or impervious, surfaces in the Los Angeles area also keep storm water from percolating into the ground, and recharging ground water supplies. This limits the amount of locally available drinking water. We currently import two-thirds of our drinking water—spending billions every year. This amount will need to almost double in the next 10 years, which will cost ratepayers in water expenses and energy expenses; water-related energy use consumes 19 percent of the state’s electricity, 30 percent of its natural gas, and 88 billion gallons of diesel fuel every year – and this demand is growing.
The Regulatory Drivers
Since 1999, Cities and unincorporated areas in the Los Angeles region have been subject to a federal Consent Decree that established a 13-year schedule for figuring out how to clean up the water. There are currently more than 30 different pollutant regulations (TMDLs) in Los Angeles County (for pollutants such as trash, bacteria, metals, pesticides and fertilizers). These pollutants affect not only the ocean, but our regional water supply as well.
To safeguard public health and the environment, water quality standards and objectives are codified in a recently adopted stormwater permit which became effective December 28, 2012.
Violations of the permit expose the City to third party lawsuits and enforcement actions. Civil penalties of $2,500 – $25,000 per day or $10 – $25 per gallon per day can be assessed for contaminated stormwater and pollutant discharges.
Those fines and civil penalties come directly out of the taxes we pay as residents of our Cities and County. In other words, we are already on the hook to pay to clean up our waterways. Since we cause the problem in the first place, that actually seems fair.
To clean the City’s waters, the City of Los Angeles will need to spend an estimated $8 billion in the next 20 years, out of an already struggling budget. The future of water in Los Angeles is a serious issue with serious consequences for all of us. Fortunately, a local water movement is beginning to take hold and “Clean Water, Clean Beaches” is an essential component to make it happen here in Los Angeles County.
The County of Los Angeles Flood Control District is proposing an integrated watershed approach that provides multi-benefit projects while complying with the water quality mandates. The solution is a proposed annual clean water fee, paid by property owners, to fund the “Clean Water, Clean Beaches” program. A typical single-family home will only be asked to pay an extra $54 per year; condos would be $20; a typical convenience store would pay $250 and a box store would pay $11,000. The fee is based upon the size of the property impacting water quality.
Cumulatively, “Clean Water, Clean Beaches” will raise $270 million to address our clean water needs. The allocation of the fund will be 10% Administration, 40% Municipal Projects and Program, and 50% Watershed-wide Project and Programs. This means that 90% of the fee will pay for the water quality programs the City is obligated to implement.
The “Clean Water, Clean Beaches” measure will provide a dedicated funding source to cities to meet the regulations without having to take money from a city’s general fund.
Here are the specific proposed projects the measure will fund.
Fee Reduction/Incentives Possibilities
Property owners who reduce the amount of impervious area on their site will be eligible for a rate reduction. In addition incentives will be provided to property owners to manage runoff on-site and reduce impervious area.
Strict Fiscal Safeguards in Place
- All funds by law must be spent on local water quality improvement projects.
- Funds cannot be diverted to Sacramento or be used for any other purpose.
- An Oversight Committee of scientists, property owners and residents reviews all expenditures.
- Fees cannot be raised for any reason without another vote of the people.
For further information, please see:
- “Clean Water, Clean Beaches” website.
- Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation website.
- Heal the Bay website.
Please take action to help get “Clean Water, Clean Beaches” approved and moved forward:
A simple email to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will help enormously.
Sample email (feel free to cut and paste):
Dear Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors,
I am a homeowner (or a renter and/or businessowner) residing in (your city) in greater Los Angeles County. I understand the serious environmental challenges facing our waterways and oceans, as well as the serious fiscal challenges facing our Cities and Counties who need to help clean them up. I am willing to do my part financially. I fully support the “Clean Water, Clean Beaches” measure and urge you to move it swiftly forward on Tuesday, March 12, 2013. To delay any longer would be irresponsible and dangerous to our Cities and to our environment.
Thank you for your leadership on these important watershed issues.
(Your name and address)
Email the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors here:
Also, please cc: the LA County Supervisors and Staff:
firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, MAntonovich@lacbos.org, KBarger@lacbos.org, TBell@lacbos.org
Remember, it isn’t just up to your elected officials to lead us; it is up to us to lead them as well.
Thank you for making a difference!