LA River

 

 

 

 

 

LA River

A visualization that analyzes nitrogen and phosphorus levels in the Los Angeles River. The design solution was awarded Runner Up in the 2015 Visualizing Nutrients Challenge organized by USGS, EPA and Blue Legacy.

USGS Press Release

Open Water Data Initiative Prize Winners

The visualization provides an overview of the available public data; it’s geographic, seasonal and annual scope, and also its limitations. It also presents a case for greater community engagement with water testing to inform and encourage leadership in the restoration of the LA River.

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Design

A digital elevation model of the LA River watershed is used to create a geo-referenced 3D terrain model, that can be cross-referenced with any GPS associated database, to allocate data spatially. Total nitrogen and phosphorus datasets are visualized spatially and animated over time, within the same geo-referenced 3D world. Aerial footage from a quad-copter provides a local geographic reference point and a sense of scale to the abstracted data. 

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Context

The LA River is currently a site of pertinent public and government discourse. It sits on the cusp of a landmark $1 billion redevelopment to restore, what has been a fully encased concrete flood control channel, back into a natural river ecosystem with vegetation, wildlife habitat, riverside parks, recreational activities and public access.

The LA River was largely a forgotten space, cut off from the urban fabric of the city and its citizens. However a future is now being planned for the LA River that will see it become a waterway of national significance.

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Data Analysis

After analyzing all surface water data sets available on the LA River from the Water Quality Portal, nitrogen and phosphorus results provide at best an inconsistent picture of nutrient levels in the river. Two other publically available data sets were analyzed to provide further detail and to offer a comparison.

The Water Quality Portal provided surface water quality data from nine monitoring stations. Additionally, data from another 22 monitoring stations was obtained from Friends of the Los Angeles River’s, River Watch study, and data from a further 8 monitoring stations was obtained from Science Land’s E-CLAW project. The data ranges from 1966 to 2014.

From a total of 39 monitoring stations, which range from the source of the LA River to it’s mouth, including several tributaries, the data was analyzed geographically, annually, seasonally, and by station over time. Observations show that there are consistently higher concentrations of nutrients over a 24-mile stretch between the Sepulveda Basin and Downtown LA, whilst the river south of Downtown to the estuary and all the tributaries show consistently lower nutrient levels. There is a 6 miles stretch of the river that has a partly natural riverbed, and dense vegetation, however this does not specifically affect nutrient levels. Other data available that records bacteria, metals, dissolved oxygen and debris, demonstrate high levels of pollution more clearly than nitrogen and phosphorus alone, however that data has not been used in this visualization.

The First State of the River Report, 2005, published by Friends of the Los Angeles River, summarizes that based on one year’s worth of monitoring at 22 sites, the river fails to meet Water Quality Objectives and bacteria counts consistently exceeded Health Department standards.

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Community Action

The most comprehensive recent studies of the LA River water chemistry were organized by two community groups, in conjunction with trained scientists and recognized laboratories, and this project proposes that such community-led testing could provide a greater role alongside government testing in the future. Community-led water testing of the LA River empowers communities to take charge of their local environments, understand when changes occur and take greater action.

Today, pollution of the LA River is primarily caused by non-point source pollution, a problem that can be remediated through the actions of local communities. It is only through greater awareness, specifically data-driven awareness that communities can organize themselves to change behaviors, promote more knowledgeable practices, and campaign for change. Citizen science, in conjunction with government scientific data collection can connect communities with their environments in a more intimate and intelligent way.

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Credits

Created by Catherine Griffiths/Isohale

Scientific and script advice by Dr Myrna Jacobson Meyers, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, University of Southern California

Narration by Biayna Bogosian

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Citations

Water Quality Portal

1. U.S. Geological Survey, 1966-1973, National Water Information System data available on the World Wide Web (Water Quality Portal), Site ID: USGS-11097500, accessed May 3, 2015, at URL http://waterqualitydata.us/portal/
2. Environmental Protection Agency, 2000, National Aquatic Resources Survey data available on the World Wide Web (Water Quality Portal), Site ID: NARS_WQXWCAP99-0552, accessed May 3, 2015, at URL http://waterqualitydata.us/portal/
3. Environmental Protection Agency, 2005, California Environmental Data Exchange Network data available on the World Wide Web (Water Quality Portal), Site ID: CEDEN-248014, accessed May 3, 2015, at URL http://waterqualitydata.us/portal/
4. Environmental Protection Agency, 2005, California Environmental Data Exchange Network data available on the World Wide Web (Water Quality Portal), Site ID: CEDEN-245385, accessed May 3, 2015, at URL http://waterqualitydata.us/portal/
5. Environmental Protection Agency, 2005, California Environmental Data Exchange Network data available on the World Wide Web (Water Quality Portal), Site ID: CEDEN-246647, accessed May 3, 2015, at URL http://waterqualitydata.us/portal/
6. Environmental Protection Agency, 2005, California Environmental Data Exchange Network data available on the World Wide Web (Water Quality Portal), Site ID: CEDEN-246613, accessed May 3, 2015, at URL http://waterqualitydata.us/portal/
7. Environmental Protection Agency, 2005, California Environmental Data Exchange Network data available on the World Wide Web (Water Quality Portal), Site ID: CEDEN-248570, accessed May 3, 2015, at URL http://waterqualitydata.us/portal/
8. Environmental Protection Agency, 2005, California Environmental Data Exchange Network data available on the World Wide Web (Water Quality Portal), Site ID: CEDEN-248159, accessed May 3, 2015, at URL http://waterqualitydata.us/portal/
9. U.S. Geological Survey, 2009, National Water Information System data available on the World Wide Web (Water Quality Portal), Site ID: USGS-11098000, accessed May 3, 2015, at URL http://waterqualitydata.us/portal/

Additional Data Sources

10. U.S. Geological Survey, 2001, Earth Explorer data available on the World Wide Web (USGS Earth Explorer), Entity IDs: ASTGDEMV2_0N33W119; ASTGDEMV2_0N33W118; ASTGDEMV2_0N34W119; ASTGDEMV2_0N34W118; accessed on May 21, 2015 at URL http://earthexplorer.usgs.gov/. ASTER GDEM is a product of METI and NASA.
11. Friends of the Los Angeles River, 2003-2004, River Watch data available upon request from URL http://folar.org/. Accessed May 3rd 2015.
12. Science Land, 2014, Ecology and Chemistry of the Los Angeles Watershed (ECLAW) data available on the World Wide Web (Science Land Wiki Space), accessed May 3, 2015, at URL https://scienceland.wikispaces.com/LARiver

Reports

13. Friends of the Los Angeles River. The First State of the Los Angeles River Report. 2005, Los Angeles, available on the World Wide Web (FoLAR), accessed by May 12, 2015, at URL http://folar.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/State-of-River.pdf

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