Southern California environment news and trends

Trout, salmon threatened by water shortages in California wine country

Mercer 11072

wallyg/Flickr Creative Commons License

Generally, wine and fish can be paired quite nicely. In California wine country, however, the relationship between the two has not been so harmonious. New research has found a correlation between markedly higher death rates in steelhead trout with lowered summer water levels and the amount of vineyard acreage upstream.

The study, conducted by biologists at UC Berkeley, discovered that the fish are especially vulnerable during the drier months of summer. They found only 30 percent of the juvenile trout present in June survived to see the end of the season. The number of surviving fish increases in years with more rainfall and in watersheds with less vineyard activity.

"Nearly all of California's salmon and trout populations are on the path to extinction and if we're going to bring these fish back to healthy levels, we have to change the way we manage our water," said Theodore Grantham, lead author of the study in Science Daily. "Water withdrawals for agricultural uses can reduce or eliminate the limited amount of habitat available to sustain these cold-water fish through the summer. I don't suggest we get rid of vineyards, but we do need to focus our attention on water management strategies that reduce summer water use. I believe we can protect flows for fish and still have our glass of wine."


Environmentalists seek help from Angelenos to map the city's uncounted small waterways

City of Los Angeles - Aerial mapping

The LA river and its tributary, the Tujunga Wash (under the 405 freeway) are well-known parts of the LA River watershed. The Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission is looking for some of the less well known ones.

Today on the radio, I report on a call issued by the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission to all Angelenos. They want your creeks and streams: the idea is to improve the city’s protection of these small watweways.

Advocates for the river, for these small waterways, argue that most of L.A.'s little streams are either gone or controlled in pipes and concrete channels. They hope to use new information in planning a stream protection ordinance in the city.

Landscape architect Jessica Hall, a longtime advocate for "daylighting" streams in LA, says the small waterways that remain can be sources of confusion for builders and urban planners."I’ve seen this situation a few times where because the creeks are not mapped," she says, "building and safety officials aren’t aware of their presence and don’t know to take the steps that they need to take to protect the streams when a neighbor comes in and wants to McMansionize their property."