The Los Angeles River. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo by Dave Palmer.
The Los Angeles River. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo by Dave Palmer.

U.S. EPA awards close to $60,000 for IoES and Waterkeeper Alliance revitalization and education project in the Los Angeles River Watershed

Polluted urban waters create public and environmental health hazards. On July 17 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced new support for Southern California projects that will help protect city waterways and positively impact nearby communities.

UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability (IoES) will receive $59,965 from the EPA for an interconnected project with the Los Angeles Waterkeeper organization that will help improve water quality, educate local youth, and support community revitalization within the Los Angeles River Watershed.

Funding comes from the EPA’s Urban Waters program, which supports communities in their efforts to access, improve, and benefit from their urban waters and the surrounding land. Urban waters include canals, rivers, lakes, wetlands, aquifers, estuaries, bays, and oceans in developed areas. These waterways can be contaminated by sewage, runoff from city streets, and pollution from abandoned industrial facilities. Healthy and accessible urban waters can help grow local businesses and enhance economic, educational, recreational, and social opportunities in nearby communities.

The grant was awarded to develop a better understanding of the sources of potential water pollution in Compton Creek, part of the L.A. River Watershed. In partnership with the Los Angeles Waterkeeper, IoES Environmental Science undergraduate students will conduct neighborhood assessments of pollutant sources using data from on-the-ground surveys, aerial photography, online research, and other monitoring efforts. In addition, the project will develop a teaching curriculum for high school students focused on understanding pollutant sources and generating strategies for addressing pollution.

Felicia Federico, who will lead the effort at the Institute said, “This work will directly inform efforts to meet water quality standards in our creeks and rivers by focusing education and enforcement actions and will hopefully have a positive impact on the quality of life for the residents of these watersheds.”

L.A. Waterkeeper’s Liz Crosson added, “By identifying industrial pollution at its source and empowering young people to advocate for cleaning it up, we are working towards improving urban waters and the communities around them.”

EPA also granted $55,021 to the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority for its Safe Routes to the River – River Ambassadors project, an education and engagement program for communities adjacent to the Los Angeles River.

Urban renewal is possible through partnerships like this and can help address the challenges contaminated urban waters pose for nearby populations.