Waterkeeper exists to keep the flow ‘clean’

With the recent spate of incidents of black sludge emanating from local residential water faucets in such places as Crystal City, Texas and Gardena, Calif., the issue of clean water remains a top priority among advocates.

Los Angeles Waterkeeper, a leading water quality watchdog group, is there to make sure that everyone reaps the benefits of keeping water free of harmful chemicals and other pollutants that can often be found in our local waters.

Founded in 1993, Los Angeles Waterkeeper’s mission is to protect and restore our local waterways such as the Santa Monica Bay, San Pedro Bay other adjacent waters through the enforcement of environmental laws, fieldwork, and community involvement.

Two of the ways in which they achieve these goals is through litigation and the implementation of regulatory programs that ensure water quality protections in the waters throughout Los Angeles County.

Culver City resident Bruce Reznick, an environmental attorney and executive director of Los Angeles Waterkeeper, has been on the front lines of the clean water wars since 1999 when he began his 11-year stint as executive director of San Diego Coastkeeper, Los Angeles Waterkeeper’s sister organization.

“In some ways I’m more of a general do-gooder,” Reznick said. “I come to the environment with kind of a social justice background. I really do have that ethic of working to leave a better world behind.”

One of the things that Reznick said he likes about working with Los Angeles Waterkeeper to rid the local waterways of pollution is that it is what he called a “very bottoms up, grassroots, locally-based” movement that is global thanks to the 293 Waterkeepers stationed around the world.

 “We have the benefits of being locally-based while also being connected to this broader worldwide movement,” Reznick said.

In order to effect change in how our local waterways are maintained, Los Angeles Waterkeeper focuses on four areas: advocacy, water quality, litigation, and their dive program.

The advocacy program involves Reznick or others within the organization  speaking out publicly in favor of pollution prevention, species protection, and oil spill prevention and response.

Their water quality efforts involve identifying and addressing the sources of water pollution by deploying teams of volunteers to assess indicators of water quality such as bacteria and metal content.

Los Angeles Waterkeeper’s litigation efforts involve the protection of clean water. Reznick said his organization challenges industrial polluters, agencies, and municipalities trying to get local waterways clean and healthy and safe so that water can be managed much more sustainably, equitably, and safer than he says is currently the case.

According to their website, some recent litigation victories include a settlement over beach water pollution with the city of Malibu which resulted in an 84 percent reduction in sewage spills. Los Angeles Waterkeeper also successfully litigated against L.A.-based industrial scrap metal recycling and auto dismantling yards resulting in the implementation of measures to control and treat toxic storm water discharges.

“Our litigation is really about challenging the practice of polluters,” Reznick said.

In addition to these efforts is the organization’s dive program which was originally formed to restore the devastated kelp along the Santa Monica Bay which was destroyed by a combination of pollution and fisherman capturing the crabs, the natural predator of the sea urchins that were destroying the kelp.

Now, with the kelp reforestation along Santa Monica Bay complete, the divers have been shifted to tracking invasive species

 “That’s the kind of thing we like sinking our teeth into,” Reznick said. “It’s not necessarily the sexiest issue but it’s a critically important issue after having spent 20 years working on kelp reforestation to get that ecosystem sort of back and thriving along our coastline, we didn’t want to lose all of that progress by an invasive species coming along and wiping it out.”

Because of their recent successes in the effecting change in water quality and water regulations, Reznick sees Los Angeles Waterkeeper as a watchdog group that will continue to push for clean water and fight against pollution in and around the local bay areas resulting hopefully in Los Angeles becoming water independent.

 “Fundamentally we have got to address those root causes and really change the way that LA is built and operates and where our water comes from and what it’s used for and really thinking on a much bigger scale of what we can do in terms of water conservation, water reuse, and reclaiming 70 percent of those hundreds of millions of gallons of sewage that’s going in the ocean. We can be a water independent region if we just reclaimed that waste water and harvested our rain water.”

To learn more about Los Angeles Waterkeeper, please visit www.lawaterkeeper.org