High-tech help for the waters of Echo Park Lake

Yellow monitoring buoy keeps tabs on the overall health of the lake water/David Austin

By Hayley Fox

A little more than six months after Echo Park Lake reopened, city officials say its been smooth sailing – so far. Many of the water quality issues the lake suffered from before are being avoided this time-around with the help of technology.

You may have noticed a floating yellow buoy in the lake, and it is this scientific monitor that keep tabs on the quality of the lake water. This instrument allows officials to identify “potential threats” so they can be proactive in fixing the situation, Cora Jackson-Fossett, spokesperson for the city’s Department of Public Works , wrote in an email.

This high tech buoy tracks temperature, pH, turbidity (basically, haziness) and dissolved oxygen levels. Changes in the amount of oxygen in the lake can pose big problems for fish and other aquatic animals. As more organic matter — like leaves or branches — ends up in the lake, they can eat up the available oxygen causing it to dip to levels insufficient for animal survival.

Jackson-Fossett said this was especially an issue for the lake during summer months when temperatures rise.

But now, the new-and-improved Echo Park Lake has stable and healthy oxygen levels, she said, thanks to the $45-million, two-year-long makeover funded by a Prop O Clean Water Bond. It uses the wetlands found around the perimeter as part of a re-circulation system that helps remove excess nutrients from the water, which can cause algae blooms.

One improvement you don’t need science to see is the clarity of the lake. What used to be a murky body of green water in which you could rarely see below the surface, is now a much less murky body of water. The perimeter of the lake now yields views of large schools of fish, instead of serving as a collection spot for chip bags and soda bottles.

But Echo Park Lake is constantly in flux, and Jackson-Fossett said it’s still in its “start-up period” after being rebooted less than a year ago.

“The Lake and its ecology is still maturing, and we are still figuring out the best management practices, in terms of operating and maintaining the lake,” she wrote. “Water quality data will be an important tool in managing the lake. For now, the water quality appears to be good.”

According to the Echo Park Lake Rehabilitation website, the lake was originally built in the 1860s as a reservoir for drinking water. Now, the lake is part of the City’s storm drain system and serves mostly as a park. Echo Park Lake is for looking at, and paddle boating in, only.

Hayley Fox is an L.A. native now living in Echo Park. After getting her master’s in journalism at the Annenberg school, Fox worked at public radio station KPCC 89.3 where she wrote and produced stories for online and on air. She covered mostly downtown L.A. and South L.A. news, as well as covering city-wide crime, breaking news and the occasional adorable animal story.


  1. Sounds good, but hope the Apple snail can be stopped, really bad pest and unfortunately, quite fertile.

    I hope with all my heart the lily pad areas return, along with the arrowhead plant, both decimated and wiped out by snails (and according to Pub. Works spokesperson, by ‘coots pulling them up from bottom,’ which I doubt — have spent hours observing coots feeding at EP Lake and none, absolutely none, were observed going after the plants in ques.).

    …and those 40k — was the figure? — restored lotuses had BETTER return. Or I camp on Eric’s and Mitch’s doorsteps at City Hall. Snail in hand.

    • The lotus always go dormant and the stalks die off in winter. They always have — they are seasonal. The reason it is noticeable this time around is because this time, they have not done what had been an annual cleanup of the stalks every fall. New stalks grow in the spring, it is not the old stalks reblooming. And cutting the old stalks to below water level does nothing to harm the plant, its just routine pruning.

      They used to go in every fall and cut then all down below water lever — and so it all looked and was clean, instead of how they have left it now. But this time, they have not done that, have left all the dead matter just sitting and floating in the water, the more to decay and start smelling going forward. Unless they clean it up, then that dead matter will remain all through the new stalks when they come up in the spring.

  2. Its nice to note the monitoring that is going on. Thanks for informing of that. However, you are jumping to a wild, unfounded conclusion when you say that, a mere six months later, the water quality issues that were a problem before have proven to be avoided.

    Whoa! Hey, six months after the previous cleaning and dredging of the lake, the water was good and pristine too. That’s just a wee bit too early to say it will not go bad again. It was 20-25 years before the water went putrid last time. Give this a while before you make just profound conclusions. These are very slow-forming problems

    With the new retaining walls designed to block any of the toxic seepage from the old dry cleaners a block away, I’m hopeful that that particular case of pollution will be avoided. But as for any other factors, we will have to wait some years before any conclusions can be made.

  3. Agree Mark on you 2nd, the lake ‘is maturing,’ and more to come on a stablized EP Lake.

    But the 1st, re the loti — wonder if that’s the true plural of lotus, like the Flying Elvi’ — the Apple snails are amphibious, can breath out and under water, and what if they’ve gone down where we cannot see damage they’ve done? I know full well of the clean outs that were performed before, but I’m in skeptical mode having photo’d hundreds (if not thousands I couldn’t see below waterline) of Apple snails in the loti bed about three months ago. They were thick in there, mature ones, and uncountable egg masses on the lotus stalks. So I’m hopeful but quite skeptical.

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