From Runoff To Resource


Here at the City of Los Angeles Watershed Protection Program, we are always striving to develop and implement new ways to keep LA’s creeks, rivers, lakes and ocean clean. Now this award-winning program is implementing innovative projects and initiatives to capture, use and/or infiltrate rainwater as well. Take a look at how our four core programs have evolved over the past two decades and the ground-breaking projects we’re currently working on to meet the Watershed Protection Program’s mission to protect the beneficial uses of receiving water while complying with all flood control and pollution abatement regulations and simultaneously address LA’s continuing drought.

Engineering: When the City began its stormwater management program back in the 1990s, the primary focus was finding ways to improve water quality, capture trash, and clean up polluted urban runoff.  More than two decades later, the program’s responsibilities have broadened to include the capture, cleaning and/or infiltration of stormwater into underground aquifers. Green infrastructure projects such as green alleys, green streets and greenways; Proposition O-funded projects that have the potential to capture 652 million gallons of rainwater annually; and, the enforcement of the low impact development ordinance that requires new and re-development projects to capture and then use or infiltrate the first ¾-inch of a rain event are a few examples of how the City’s Watershed Protection Program is taking its engineering game to the next level.

Education: At its inception, the City’s program focused on educating residents on what storm drains were – most residents thought sewers and storm drains were the same system. Using the outreach tools of the day, such as brochures, posters and videotapes, the City developed and implemented programs to educate residents to “Make the Connection! The Ocean Begins in Your Neighborhood.” Fast forward 25 years and today the City’s Watershed Protection Program’s education is a pioneer in its field. Using a combination of point-of-purchase advertising, community events, school education and a robust online presence, we are working to reinforce positive pollution reducing behaviors and encourage water conservation. If you haven’t done so already, check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Don’t forget to visit our website and sign up for our quarterly e-newsletter.

Evaluation: The City of Los Angeles Watershed Protection Program began developing its monitoring and assessment program in 2001, more than a decade before it was required in the 2012 NPDES Municipal Stormwater Permit. In the 15 years since, the program has expanded significantly – from a program that collected 800 samples annually by hand to a program that currently collects 2,500 samples every year, using remote-controlled auto-samplers and leading the way with the county-wide Coordinated Integrated Monitoring Program. In addition to the samples collected, every year tens of thousands of tests are conducted to measure the quantity of pollutants in LA’s waterways and evaluate the impact of pollutants on our local creeks, rivers, lakes and ocean.

Enforcement: In the late 90s, the City of Los Angeles passed a stormwater ordinance that prohibited the entry of illicit discharges into the municipal storm drain system and gave the city local legal authority to enforce the NPDES Permit. Today, the Watershed Protection Program’s Environmental Compliance officers are LA’s watershed protectors, responding to emergency calls of illicit discharges to our creeks, rivers, lakes and ocean; enforcing the City’s laws regarding stormwater discharge, illegal dumping and littering; and, inspecting businesses to insure that they adhere to best management practices.

Even after 25 years, LA’s award-winning Watershed Protection Program has never stopped innovating and working towards keeping LA’s local waterways clean. Now, we add the capturing, cleaning and use and/or infiltration of rainwater to our program’s list of priorities. Like so many core elements of our program, our attitude towards stormwater has evolved. It’s gone from negative to positive, from liability to asset, from runoff to resource.


Comments (2)

  1. Stephanie Bartron
    August 25th, 2016 at 6:04 pm

    Awesome work!

    Will you please work with the DWP to make sure that the Silverlake Reservoir is refilled with storm water and not just potable water? They are repiping it now (for the drinking water supply) so it’s empty, but the community is pressuring them to refill it ASAP, and they are not yet including storm water in their plans.They should be reworking the infrastructure now, while it is empty.


  2. Avatar for LA Stormwater
    Keith Linker
    August 25th, 2016 at 8:57 pm

    It’s great to see the treatment and – better yet – capture and infiltration of Stormwater finally becoming reality and I impacting the urban watershed in a positive way. Turning a liability into an asset is the best way to describe the results of this effort. Well done LA Stormwater

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