By: Sherry Lippiatt, California Regional Coordinator for the NOAA Marine Debris Program
Some parts of Southern California have already had record rainfalls this wet season, thanks to storms that moved through in mid-September. The state desperately needs the rain, but not the marine debris that comes with it. Major rainstorms inevitably lead to runoff, which can mobilize and turn upstream litter into marine debris downstream. Unfortunately, this yearly influx of much-needed rains often translates to a surge of marine debris, or the “first flush.”
This year could be a particularly wet one for California. The National Weather Service is predicting a wetter than average year with El Niño, which brings more marine debris concerns, as sights such as seen in these photos are common after major winter storms.
So what can we do? For starters, the easiest thing is to continue to reduce, reuse, and recycle to cut off debris at the source. If wet or windy weather is in the forecast, try to schedule a neighborhood cleanup before the storm, and consider not leaving your full garbage, recycling, or compost bins on the street until the weather has passed.
The upside is that local efforts to intercept and filter out solid debris in runoff are on the rise. As you might have read in a previous blog, a NOAA study showed that reducing marine debris on Southern California beaches can prevent financial loss and provide economic benefits to residents. Preventing litter from becoming marine debris is good news for our beaches and our wallets!