About this website
The waters that fill the wide concrete troughs that carve through Northeast Los Angeles-- the LA River and the Arroyo Seco- originate in myriad unnamed small seeps and waterflows throughout our neighborhoods that were never mapped or named. These streams and seeps were part of the character of the landscapes the first Euro-american settlers found.
Note that though public dialogue around our waterways has focussed around the large channelized rivers, the real opportunity for watershed restoration is in the upper watershed, where streams begin. This is where water soaks into the soil, giving life to plants and species small and large, slowly collecting into small streams, which eventually come together as the tributaries that form the rivers which we have named.
Today, the way we have channelized our streams and depicted them on maps give the impression that the flow of water through our landscapes is linear. But originally, it was not so. Linearity was an outcome of development. Before channelization, there was diversity in how water moves through and manifests in the landscapes. This contributed to the character of neighborhoods and sense of place.
Early on, communities noticed that the replacement of vegetated landscapes with paved surfaces (buildings, roads, parking lots) created flooding and erosion downstream. Development continued, nonetheless, until building was so extensive that it had turned winter rains into a public safety risk. While the routing of most of our winter rains into an underground stormdrain system dried up nuisance water and freed up land for development, it also resulted in neighborhoods that were comparatively uniform in character.
The stories on this website were compiled from interviews with elders of Northeast Los Angeles, and supplemented by archival and other sources between 2003-6. Some of the stories I recorded sound a bit like mythology, but I choose to leave these stories and my rendition of them in their original form. This website has itself become a historical document!
Maybe one day, I will add some notes about the mechanics of urban hydrology, as I understand this topic, fifteen years later! Until then, I'll only note that the community of Eagle Rock is situated over their own groundwater basin, which collects water from the hills above this town. The town shares this aquifer with no other community. Thus Eagle Rock has a unique opportunity to manage the level of water in its own aquifer. If rainwater harvesting measures such as permeable paving, bioswales, and revegetation of exposed ground were more widespread in this community we could expect the water table to rise, making more moisture available throughout the year to feed local landscapes. Eagle Rock's aquifer is only tapped by one single user: Sparkletts. Until then, please enjoy. Write to me with comments at myriadsmallthings /a/t/g/m/a/i/l/d/o/t/c/o/m.
-- Jane Tsong, 2019