Environmental group Heal the Bay announced today the release of its 12-year scientific study of the Malibu Creek Watershed in the Santa Monica Mountains, one of Los Angeles’ last relatively untouched open spaces. The data-driven report, “Malibu Creek Watershed: An Ecosystem on the Brink,” assesses the health and significance of this fragile natural resource, providing insight into how to safeguard it for the benefit of future generations.

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Encompassing 109 square miles, the Malibu Creek Watershed is located in the northwest corner of L.A. County, bounded on the south by the Pacific Ocean. This watershed drains to world-famous Surfrider Beach in Malibu, where polluted water can harm humans and animal life.

More than 75% of this area remains undeveloped and in a natural state; yet Heal the Bay found evidence of degradation from pollution and other man-made causes. The good news is that we have time to reverse this deterioration, according to the Heal the Bay scientists who researched and wrote the report.

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Heal the Bay and the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission hosted a public presentation and discussion centered on the findings and recommendations as well as on ways for individuals to get involved and safeguard the health of the Malibu Creek Watershed.  

Some of the key findings and recommendations from “Malibu Creek Watershed: An Ecosystem on the Brink” include:

Throughout the Malibu Creek Watershed, streams are polluted and don’t meet current water quality standards, potentially harming the well-being of anyone who comes in contact with this water. Excess bacterial pollution can cause stomach flu and various infections not only in the watershed itself, but also downstream at public beaches. Heal the Bay recommends several steps to improve water quality in this area, including: Adopt and implement low impact development ordinances, reduce sediment, nutrient and bacteria runoff from agricultural use in the area and increase water storage and reuse at Tapia Water Reclamation Facility.

Heal The Bay collect garbage on local beaches

In addition, the regional Water Quality Control Board needs to implement and enforce Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) to regulate the amount of pollutants that waterbodies can receive and still meet water quality standards set by the Clean Water Act.

Streambanks straightened and armored with concrete or rocks to prevent erosion, actually cause erosion downstream, ultimately causing habitat loss. Heal the Bay recommends adopting stream protection ordinances in L.A. County and cities within the watershed and encourages stabilizing streambanks with vegetation.

Invasive aquatic animals and plants are widespread throughout the Malibu Creek Watershed, altering the natural ecosystem, strangling habitat and crowding out native species. Heal the Bay recommends educating visitors to the watershed about how to minimize the spread of invasive species; gardeners to plant native species and pet owners on what to do with unwanted aquatic animals.

Heal the Bay’s complete findings “Malibu Creek Watershed: Ecosystem on the Brink” can be found and downloaded at

Heal the Bay offers ongoing opportunities for concerned individuals to get involved in protecting the Malibu Creek Watershed. On a monthly basis, Heal the Bay in partnership with the Mountains Restoration Trust, invites volunteers to restore areas of Malibu Creek State Park by removing invasive plants and planting native species in their place. To celebrate Earth Month, a restoration will take place on April 14 at 8:45 a.m. in Malibu Creek State Park. To sign up and find more details visit:

The data included in “Malibu Creek Watershed: Ecosystem on the Brink” were collected from 1998-2010 by Heal the Bay through its citizen science program Stream Team, which remains vital to documenting the health of this last natural watershed in Los Angeles. Heal the Bay has trained more than 500 Stream Team volunteers to research water quality and participate in monthly water chemistry testing. This information is then added to the Stream Team data portal, which Heal the Bay shares with the public.

About Heal the Bay
Heal the Bay is a nonprofit environmental organization dedicated to making Southern California coastal waters and watersheds, including Santa Monica Bay, safe, healthy and clean. We use science, education, community action and advocacy to pursue our mission.

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