Water has been the river’s saving grace. This may seem obvious, rivers and water are surely inextricably linked. So let me be a little more precise. The visible manifestations of water, and the life enabled by them, have allowed the Los Angeles River to survive extreme human alteration. Acres of concrete, without water, are just concrete. Acres of concrete, with even a little water, quickly become spiked with tenacious weeds, cultivate variously-coloured algae, and make offerings of habitats to birds, locals and migrating ones. With more water, nature appears with more abundance. For the Los Angeles River, the additional water came from two sources. First of all, there are the soft bottom stretches where the bubbling up of spring water made concrete an impossible proposition. Secondly, a growing population meant more sewage, and the treated water outflows from treatment plants constructed along the river proved transformative. Their existence meant a Los Angeles River that flowed year-round, giving nature visible opportunities to flourish in amongst and in spite of the concrete, thanks to the daily ablutions of an-ever growing city.  As the river became more visibly alive, it ‘reinforced the appeal about a living river’.[1] This typifies the paradox: that an ostensibly unnatural intervention – an industrial wastewater treatment facility – led to a resurgence in plant, bird and aquatic life.

[1] Gottlieb, Reinventing Los Angeles : Nature and Community in the Global City, 142.