Drought Doubt: Is the rain all good for Los Angeles?

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In case you didn’t notice this weekend, it rained in Los Angeles. A lot.

As an Oregonian I normally make fun of the local’s reaction to rain – with some help from Jimmy Kimmel – but this weekend was different.

Relentless showers hit the city starting on Friday, interspersed with flash floods, thunder and lightening. Power sources were knocked out, Internet services went down (which, on a personal note, delayed my “House of Cards” binge-watching) and roads and freeways became even more terrifying than normal.

Despite the mayhem, the rain has brought slight relief to the parched ground during a drought that could be the worst the state has seen in 500 years.

When a flash flood starts in a drought stricken region, the parched ground is unable to hold the massive amount of rain that hits it. The rain is then diverted as “runoff,” which is diverted to the irrigation infrastructure of the area. The heavy development of Los Angeles land makes the absorption of water even less likely, and the concrete further increases the diversion of rain water into the irrigation systems of the city.

There is an effect of the rain this weekend that is alarming. Since Los Angeles is a “concrete jungle,” rain could bring slick consequences for marine life off the coast. The massive runoff seen this weekend created faux-rivers that led to drain pipes, all ultimately finding their end at the ocean. Gasoline and oil from cars rests on the pavement of the city, accumulating in mass amounts, especially when rain has been scarce and hasn’t cleared the roadways of oil. This slick can slow braking responses of cars, but also, more alarmingly, becomes swept off in the runoff that funnels straight to the Pacific Ocean. This runoff has been sending oil, gas and other pollutants into the marine communities off the coast.

Excess gasoline funneling into the oceans is no joke. The effect on the ecosystem can be incredibly detrimental, resulting in contaminated marine life, decreased water quality and less productive ecosystems.

Next time you’re driving your car, just think about all those pollutants that are bound to ruin the lives of innocent fish. Watch yourself.

Jill Goatcher is a senior politics major and marine biology minor. She can be reached at goatcher@oxy.edu or on Twitter @WklyJGoatcher.