Understanding and communicating about watershed condition over the long-term is a critical aspect of water and watershed management. Prior to this project there was no science-based, systematic approach designed specifically to assess the health of watersheds in the Southern California region. Our research yielded the Southern California Watershed Assessment Framework, which brings ecologic, social and economic indicators of health to the assessment of social and environmental management goals. The framework creates a holistic vision of the function of a watershed, allowing community engagement with the complex problem of environmental management.

During 2009-2010, we performed an assessment of the health of the Arroyo Seco watershed, a tributary to the Los Angeles River. Goals were crafted using an adaptive process that primarily included research into management plans and discussion with a wide variety of stakeholders. Progress towards each goal was assessed using a suite of indicators and metrics.

The framework encourages and supports cooperation and integration of environmental management at the watershed scale. Improving the health of the region’s watersheds is promoted by greater public awareness of the social, economic and ecological condition revealed by watershed health assessments.

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