Thursday, May 28, 2009

New EPA Educational Stormwater Video

Reduce Runoff: Slow it down, Spread it out, Soak it in

This new 9-minute video, “Reduce Runoff: Slow It
Down, Spread It Out, Soak It In,” highlights green techniques
such as rain gardens, green roofs, and rain barrels that help
manage stormwater runoff in a more sustainable manner. The
film, produced in partnership with the U.S. Botanic Garden,
showcases green techniques that are being used in urban areas
to minimize the impacts of stormwater runoff on the quality of
downstream receiving waters.

The goal is to mimic the natural way water moves through
an area before development by using design techniques that
infiltrate, evaporate, and reuse runoff close to its source. The
green techniques, including rain gardens, green roofs, rain
barrels and cisterns, are very effective at reducing the volume
of stormwater runoff and capturing harmful pollutants. These
green practices increasingly are being used by communities
across the country to help protect and restore water quality.
Using vegetated areas that capture runoff also improves air
quality, mitigates the effects of urban heat islands, and reduces
a community’s overall carbon footprint.

The video includes green techniques on display in 2008
at the U.S. Botanic Garden’s “One Planet – Ours!” Exhibit. It
also highlights green techniques at U.S. EPA’s Headquarters
in Washington, D.C. including recently completed cisterns. Six
1,000-gallon cisterns installed in the basement at EPA’s West
Building now collect roof runoff from the building. This cistern
water irrigates planting beds and grass in front of EPA’s West
Building along Constitution Avenue, thereby conserving water
and reducing runoff to the Chesapeake Bay.

The video is available online at: Also, see for more
information on Stormwater Management at EPA Headquarters.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Surfrider Santa Monica High School Teach & Test

The West Los Angeles/Malibu Surfrider Chapter has brought the Blue Water Task Force to Santa Monica High School. The Chapter, in partnership with Santa Monica High School, was awarded a Whale Tale Grant from the California Coastal Commission to fund the Surfrider Santa Monica High School Teach & Test program, providing students with the opportunity to get hands on science experience while raising awareness of about water quality in their community.

“With this grant, we will be able to provide the students with the technology needed to make this a truly scientific inquiry,” states Benjamin Kay, Marine Biology Teacher and advisor for the Teach & Test program.

“We now have the tools to turn a community-based program into a full-blown educational program whose messages will reach beyond Santa Monica to all of Los Angeles” notes Lindsey Jurca, who oversees the Teach & Test program as Surfrider WLAM’s educational chair.

Learn more about the Surfrider Santa Monica High School Teach & Test program on the Chapter's website.

The high school students have also made the front page of their local newspaper, The Santa Monica Daily Press

Samohi students become young marine biologists

by Melody Hanatani

May 02, 2009

SAMOHI — Every Wednesday morning while his peers are still rolling out of bed and rubbing the crust from their eyes, Raphael Mawrence is at the beach, not hitting the waves, but rather learning about the marine environment.

The 11th grader is among more than a dozen Santa Monica High School students who for the past seven weeks have been collecting and analyzing water samples from the Santa Monica Bay, monitoring bacteria levels and trying to understand the factors that make the local beach one of the most polluted in the state.

The group of approximately 15 teenagers are part of the Surfrider Foundation’s Teach & Test Program, which aims to educate students about urban runoff and other environmental issues, giving them the tools necessary to make a positive impact in the community.

“I get to see what I’m swimming in,” Mawrence said.

Local beaches continually post poor marks in Heal the Bay’s annual Beach Report Card, which grades water quality at more than 500 locations statewide. The most recent report card last May found that L.A. County is home to five of the top 10 lowest-rated beaches. The pier ranked second on the list of the “Top 10 Beach Bummers,” just behind Avalon Harbor Beach at Catalina Island.

Through funding from the Surfrider Foundation West Los Angeles/Malibu Chapter and other grants, including the California Coastal Commission’s Whale Tail Grant, the students test their samples at the new Samohi Surfrider Marine Laboratory — a classroom in the school’s science building that is stacked with roughly $9,000 worth of equipment.

“It’s mostly about empowering the kids, empowering the future generations to impact changes, getting them actively engaged in the community, giving them a voice and having them tackle real environmental issues the world is facing right now and be problem solvers,” Lindsey Jurca, the education chair for the local Surfrider chapter’s executive committee, said.

While the program has been in place in schools across the state for years, including in the South Bay, Samohi is the first participating high school on the Westside.

The students go out every week to collect samples at three locations — Tower 26, the Santa Monica Pier and the Pico-Kenter Storm Drain.

They then return to the lab where they grow bacteria in an incubator through which they are able to determine the water quality about 24 hours later, Benjamin Kay, the program adviser and marine biology teacher, said.

The participants are either enrolled in Kay’s classes or are members of several student organizations, including Team Marine and the Heal the Bay Club, both of which focus on oceanic environmental issues.

“They’re very empowered by the fact that they are doing the research from start to finish by themselves,” Kay said. “The results matter to them because they own the results and they’re doing the dirty work.”

Kay hopes to expand the program to all marine biology students at the high school, reaching about 200 teenagers.

A major component of the program involves the students educating the community about their findings through presentations to their peers and city officials and visits to local middle schools.

The results of the first few water samples have been surprising to the students.

“I noticed that the ocean is not as clean as I thought it would be,” Mawrence said.

His peer, fellow junior Valerie Wacker, has a different take on the results.

“It’s a little bit cleaner than I thought because a lot of people are always making fun of the bay and how dirty it is,” she said. “I feel comfortable swimming in the beach knowing that it’s OK.”

Wacker, who got involved with Team Marine through a friend, described the experience collecting samples and running tests as “adult like.”

“It’s interesting because we go at 7:30 in the morning onto the beach and it’s very cold but so beautiful to be taking water samples to show the public how healthy our beach is,” she said. “It’s really important to know what you’re swimming in.”