Even on a dry day, tens of millions of gallons of dirty water dumps into the ocean through the region’s vast storm drain system. The 3,500-mile network was designed and built to empty streets of rainwater, but tons of litter also flow into the ocean through the intricate system of curbside drainages, underground channels, pumps and creeks. Stormwater pollution puts beach swimmers at risk, particularly after it rains. Marine animals and plants can also get sick or die.
From the gutter: How your litter ends up in the ocean
A county connected by a massive storm drain system
Underground pipes and channels drained by gravity
Open channels lined with concrete
Streams and rivers that flow through natural creek beds
Pump stations push stormwater pooled in low areas back into the flow toward the ocean
This map is based on raw data from multiple agencies that own and maintain parts of the storm drain network. The data, compiled by the L.A. County Department of Public Works, covers the vast majority of the system.
A look at how one cigarette butt dropped in the hills could wind up on a beach 13 miles away
Sources: Times reporting; Menerva Ariki of L.A. County Department of Public Works; City of L.A. Watershed Protection Program; L.A. Regional Water Quality Control Board; 2013 Coastal Cleanup Day data from Heal the Bay; California Coastal Commission; Getty Images; ESRI; U.S. Geological Survey; U.S. Census Bureau