Guest Blogger: Stormwater 101 By Joyce Amaro of LA Stormwater
We are lucky to have a guest blog post by Joyce Amaro, the public education manager for the City of Los Angeles’ Stormwater Program. Learn more about the LA Stormwater organization, problems with stormwater pollution, and more. Thanks, Joyce, for a great post!
What is LA Stormwater and how does the program reach out to the community?
LA Stormwater is the public education wing of the City of Los Angeles Watershed Protection Division. We blog, utilize YouTube and Facebook and have a popular eNewsletter that goes out quarterly to thousands of people to spread the pollution prevention message. We also have a website and community calendar that serves as a resource for those that want to take their actions a step further for clean water and attend meetings and volunteer events.
Why does stormwater in Los Angeles matter? What are the consequences?
Stormwater pollution can be a very significant problem in L.A. When the first rains of the year hit our area, a lot of backed-up litter ends up making its way to the beach. We call this the “first-flush” and the negative effects can be significant. To give you some idea of the magnitude we are dealing with: Even on a dry day the amount of water that runs through our storm drain system from runoff (this would include water from hoses etc.) could fill the entire Rose Bowl stadium. Since both end up in the ocean, what's the difference between stormwater that goes through the storm drain system outside and the water we use inside our homes, greywater?
The largest difference is that the water which runs through our pipes at home, from our sinks, toilets, dishwashers and the like, ends up going to a treatment facility before it is released into our waterways. That’s not the case with the water that runs off from our streets. And often this water can be just as toxic as wastewater from residential areas.
Is the LA stormwater system different from other cities/parts of the country? How?
L.A. is a large urban area with a lot of impervious surface. Many large east coast cities have combined stormwater and wastewater treatment facilities. So they don’t handle runoff in the same manner. However, our stormwater system, including the LA River in its current form was originally set up to handle flooding issues. And while this left us with less of likelihood for floods, we are now dealing with a system that was not set up to handle polluted runoff.
What's the single most important thing we can do to prevent stormwater pollution? The number one thing is to not litter. This means we cannot toss anything on the ground-not one cigarette butt, gum wrapper, or Popsicle stick -nothing. It also means picking up after our pets when they relieve themselves on the sidewalk, in the park, or even in our backyards. Dog waste causes big problems because of the bacteria and viruses it contains.
What are some runner up actions?
Some other important ones that I’d add are to reduce our use of pesticides and fertilizers whenever possible. And make sure to never apply pesticides to your lawn prior to a rain shower, as those chemicals can wash off and enter our storm drain system. Nasty stuff to have in the water!
About the author:
Joyce Amaro is the public education manager for the City of Los Angeles’ Stormwater Program. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and 3-year old son, volunteering with an animal rescue group and restoring their Alhambra 1912 Arts and Crafts-styled home.