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Solutions to the Los Angeles Metropolitan Watershed Pollution Problem Problem Solution Essay

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Updated: Jun 9th, 2019


The degree of water pollution in the Los Angeles Metropolitan area is very high. This has led to its watershed having some of the most polluted water in the country. If the situation is left unattended, the quality of water in the watershed can be expected to get even worse as the metropolitan experiences population growth and greater industrial activity.

Action therefore needs to be taken to contain the problem of pollution, which has caused the Los Angeles Metropolitan watershed to be one of the worst water sources in the US. To alleviate the problem and consequently limit its social consequences in the metropolitan area, the following solutions can be implemented.


Growing Plant Cover

An increase in the plant cover in the metropolitan area can help mitigate watershed pollution. At the present, impervious structures dominate the LA Metropolitan area and the amount of plant cover is negligible. Action should be taken to counter the negative impact that impervious structures have on the water quality in LA’s Metropolitan watershed.

Since it might not be possible to remove the existing or prevent the future construction of impervious structures, a feasible solution could be to increase the number of plants and trees in the urban settlement. Pincetl declares that for cities to remediate some of their own environmental impact, they will have to make use of nature’s services (43). Increasing plant cover is one solution that can yield immediate positive results in the urban setting.

To begin with, planting more trees and plants in the cities will help mitigate pollution by using the natural purification capability of plants. Plants can absorb pollutants such as heavy metals, which are present in the water, therefore performing natural purification. The water quality is therefore increased due to the purification process of plants and trees. In addition to this, plant cover will reduce the level of runoff that gets into the city’s storm drains.

Dallman and Spongberg confirm that plants are capable of absorbing some of the water that flows as runoff during downpours (232). As such, a lower volume of contaminated water will make its way into the watershed area. Implementing this solution may be hampered by the lack of empty land in the Metropolitan area to be used for planting trees.

This challenge can be overcome by making use of the available space at public parks and household backyards to plant trees and vegetation (Pincetl 43). Such action will enable the city to enjoy the environmental benefits of plant cover without foregoing the convenience that impervious structures offer.

Protecting Catchment Areas

A solution that proposes to bring significant reduction in the rampant pollution currently experienced in the Los Angeles Metropolitan watershed must consider the protection of the wetlands in the area. Due to the increase in population within the Los Angeles Metropolitan, wetland areas have been arbitrarily destroyed. Urban developers, who convert the wetlands into commercially viable land through recreation, have been the primary cause of this destruction.

Policy makers can take steps to mitigate or even reverse the loss of the wetland areas. To mitigate these losses, the authorities should impose laws that stop developers from tampering with wetlands. Such laws would ensure that the existing wetland is protected from human destruction. The wetlands would therefore perform their function as natural filtration systems therefore ensuring the increase in the quality of water in the LA region.

However, solely protecting the existing wetland habitats will not be sufficient. As it currently stands, only a fraction of the original wetland remains after the rampant destruction done to this habitat over the course of the last century. Measures therefore have to be taken to increase wetland habitats in California.

The pollution in watersheds can be alleviated by restoring degraded streams that supply the water to the watershed. Little asserts that there is a link between the quality of water in urban supplies and remote rural watersheds (37). Most policy makers have failed to appreciate this link and little attention has been paid to the water source.

Due to this disconnect, there has been rampant degradation upstream. Officials in the LA Metropolitan region should pioneer projects to improve upstream land and river systems. Such drives would include a decrease or an end in commercial logging in water catchment areas. In addition to this, there should be a significant increase in the area of land earmarked as an ecological reserve.

Local Land Use Policies

Another effective solution is to implement targeted local land use policies to encourage land uses that are beneficial to the watershed ecosystem. The prevalent pollution of the Los Angeles watershed has been caused by the land use change that has occurred over the decades. Langpap, Hascic and Junjie declare that land use change is the most pervasive force driving the change and degradation of watershed ecosystems in urban settlements (684).

Controlling the land use in the region might lead to the reduction of watershed pollution. Research indicates that the land use choices induced by policies can have an effect on watershed health (Langpap et al. 685). Therefore, authorities should implement local land use policies that are aimed at providing incentives for land uses that have a positive impact on the water quality.

Specifically, local authorities should “identify land uses, which have the largest impact on watersheds, and then implement policies that have the largest effects on those land uses ” (Langpap et al. 698).

It has been demonstrated that incentive-based policies such as preferential property taxation of farm and forest land are effective in bringing about water quality improvement in watersheds. By implementing the incentive-based policies in the LA Metropolitan region, a significant reduction in the land uses that have a negative impact on water quality will be observed in the watersheds.

Intentional Infiltration

Controlling the urban storm water runoff that occurs due to the widespread availability of impervious surfaces in the Los Angeles Metropolitan region is necessary for solving the pollution problem. Intentional infiltration of storm water to recharge groundwater can be used to mitigate pollution of Los Angele’s watershed by storm water runoff. Storm water runoff is one of the most important sources of pollution to watersheds.

Dallman and Spongberg document that the increased volume of storm water runoff that results from the impermeable urban landscape has contributed significantly to the deterioration of the water quality in Los Angeles’ watershed (232). Capturing the urban storm water runoff effectively reduces the pollutant loads that surface water deposits to the watersheds. Through Intentional infiltration, most of the pollutants are sifted off before the water reaches the groundwater aquifers.

Studies have consistently shown that even without pretreatment of storm water runoff, the groundwater contamination potential from surface infiltration is low to moderate (Dallman and Spongberg 234). The reason for this is that the soil is able to filter off most of the pollutants before the water reaches the groundwater aquifers.

Sediment and associated particulates settle out on the surface while heavy metals are either attached to soil particles or they degrade by microbial processes in surface and subsurface soil layers. However, to remove the risk of storm water runoff polluting underground aquifers, simple pretreatment processes such as settling or filtration through vegetation can be employed.

In addition to solving the pollution problem experienced by LA’s watershed, intentional infiltration of storm water will help increase the volume of water available for consumption. As it currently stands, the existing water supplies are in sharp decline, while the level of consumption is increasing.

At the present, the Los Angeles region only captures a small portion of the storm water runoff for groundwater recharge. By capturing more storm water runoff for infiltration, the region would be able to significantly decrease the pollution to the watershed area while at the same time substantially increasing local groundwater supplies (Dallman and Spongberg 233).

Stringent Industry Regulations

Dealing with the industrial waste problem is integral to decreasing pollution in the LA Metropolitan Watershed. Industrial waste not only contributes to a significant volume of the entire water pollution, but it also accounts for the deadliest pollutants introduced into the LA Metropolitan watershed (Woodard 51). Arguably, the most effective solution to the industrial waste problem is implementing extensive and stringent laws against water pollution by industries.

Currently, the State of California has imposed some laws that limit the types of pollutants that industries can release into the water system. The California State regulations forbidding the pollution of surface water and groundwater are important and they have contributed to the decline in industrial pollution over the decades (Woodard 51).

Since there are stiff penalties attached to pollution, companies endeavor to avoid discharging toxic substances into the environment. However, the current laws are ineffective in mitigating the watershed pollution currently experienced in the LA Metropolitan area. Authorities should increase the minimum purity level of all discharges from industries. Dischargers should be required to treat wastewater to a higher degree, therefore ensuring that most of the hazardous wastes are removed.

In recognition of the negative effect that micro-debris play in the pollution of watersheds, greater regulations should be imposed on the industries that produce this plastic as waste. The current restrictions on plastic waste disposal allow industries to dump large quantities of plastic in the watershed area.

The California Water Resource Control Board should impose regulations on the disposal of plastic that are less than 5 millimeters in diameter. Industries should be required to stop micro-debris and pellets into the water system. Such a move would have a monumental impact on the water quality in the watersheds since plastics make up to 99% of the debris washed up on Californian beaches.


Solving the water pollution problem in Los Angeles Metropolitan’s watershed is a matter of great urgency. This paper has proposed some of the ways in which pollution can be contained therefore improving the quality of water in the region. From the discussions held in this paper, it is clear that both point and non-point sources of pollution must be considered in order to mitigate pollution in the watershed. Once implemented, these solutions will ensure that Los Angeles Metropolitan is able to enjoy high quality water from its watershed.

Works Cited

Dallman, Suzanne and Martin Spongberg. “Expanding Local Water Supplies: Assessing the Impacts of Storm water Infiltration on Groundwater Quality.” Professional Geographer 64.2 (2012): 232-249. Web.

Langpap, Christian, Ivan Hascic and Wu Junjie. “Protecting Watershed Ecosystems through Targeted Local Land Use Policies.” American Journal of Agricultural Economics 90.3 (2008): 684-700. Print

Little, Jane. “Flowing from forests to faucets.” American Forests 106.1 (2000): 36-40. Web.

Pincetl, Stephanie. “From the sanitary city to the sustainable city: challenges to institutionalising biogenic (nature’s services) infrastructure.” Local Environment 15.1 (2010): 43–58. Web.

Woodard, Frank. Industrial Waste Treatment Handbook. NY: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2001. Print.

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