The Mountain Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA) operates the recreation zones on a seasonal basis in cooperation with the City of Los Angeles, the County of Los Angeles, and the Army Corps of Engineers. There are two segments of the Recreation Zone; the 2-mile Sepulveda Basin River Recreation Zone and the 2.5 mile Elysian Valley River Recreation Zone. Both Recreation Zones are open sunrise to sunset daily for walking, fishing, and kayaking from Memorial Day to September 30 every year. For maps and guides and more information on the Recreation Zones see www.lariverrecreation.org.
LA Sanitation and Environment staff sample and test water twice a week at three locations in each Recreation Zone, corresponding to the beginning, middle, and end of each zone. Samples are tested in a laboratory for the presence of E. coli bacteria, and for each sample a resulting MPN (Most Probable Number) per 100 milliliters (mL) is determined. The bacteria results at each location are compared to State of California water quality standards for water contact recreation (REC-1 and Limited REC-1) to determine if the water quality, in each Recreation Zone, is suitable for recreational activities. Based on the bacteria levels found, the status of each recreation zone is determined and displayed on the table below according to the following color-code. 2021 Update: After being closed for kayaking in 2020, due to the pandemic, both the Sepulveda Basin and Elysian Valley River Recreation Zones will be open for recreational activities beginning on May 31, 2021. Last year water quality beacons were installed at the one kayak put-in site at the Sepulveda Basin and the two put-in sites at the Elysian Valley Recreation Zones. The beacons are remotely activated by LA Sanitation and Environment staff to provide visible public notification of the water quality of the LA River for recreational activities. The color of the beacons will be either green, yellow, red, or flashing red based on the results of the bacteria testing at each zone or dangerous conditions determined by MRCA, such as high flows. The conditions for each color code are described in the table below and in signage erected next to each water quality beacon.
The status of each Recreation Zone is based on the latest bacteria results, but bacteria levels in urban waters can be highly erratic and dependent on a multitude of human and non-human sources. Since elevated bacteria levels can occur at any time in the river, you should always follow these safe practices in order to minimize your risk of getting sick.
Lake Balboa is a 27.5-acre lake located in the Sepulveda Basin, which was first filled with reclaimed water from the Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant (DCT) in August 1992. The lake is constantly supplied with 15 million gallons of reclaimed water per day from DCT, which runs through the lake and flows out to the Los Angeles River. Swimming is prohibited in the lake, but recreational activities allowed include fishing, boating, jogging, skating, bicycling, and picnicking. Department of Recreation and Parks and LA Sanitation and Environment staff sample and test the water quality at Lake Balboa daily (pH, dissolved oxygen, and temperature), weekly (nutrients), and monthly (bacteria and conductivity). The sediments in the lake are tested quarterly for metals and pesticides and compared to the freshwater sediment screening levels determined by the US EPA. Periodically, the fish from Lake Balboa are tested for DDT’s, PCB’s, mercury, and selenium and the concentrations found are compared to the advisory tissue levels established by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment to determine if they are safe for consumption. During the summer (May – September), bacteria testing is increased to twice weekly at two sites in Lake Balboa. Samples are tested in a laboratory for the presence of E. coli bacteria, and for each sample a resulting MPN per 100 mL is determined. The bacteria results for the two locations in the lake are compared to the water quality standards for water contact recreation to determine if the lake is suitable for recreational activities. Based on the bacteria levels found, the status of Lake Balboa is determined and displayed on the table below according to the following color code: