River by the Numbers: How to Use the River Index

Did you know, 1 out of ever 4 Angelenos live within 30 miles of the river?

In 2014, we partnered with Gehry Partners, OLIN, and Geosyntec to digest and explore the enormous amount of data surrounding the Los Angeles River. Our goal was to build upon the 25 years of work to create a single framework by which future projects for the river could be evaluated. For example, if a city wanted to build a park along the LA River, this index could be used to determine if it’s in the right location based off of population need, etc.

All this work led to the River Index, which was launched in 2016.

Today, this free, online resource includes an analysis of new and existing studies and master plans, and was informed by community members, peer organizations, state and local agencies, technical experts, and everyone in between. It covers a range of topics and has everything you need to becoming a LA River expert. We’re here to provide an overview of how it works, and share some best practices for making the most of the River Index.

Have a specific question about it? Let us know in the comments.

What is the River Index, exactly?

The River Index is an online resource full of data about the Los Angeles River and the communities it runs through. It’s been broken into nine sections, but really can be looked at through three lenses: People, water and nature*. The table shows a breakdown of topics covered in the index:





Water Recharge

Ecology & Habitat


Water Quality

Greenhouse Gases

Public Health & Social Equity

Flood Risk Management

Open Space & Parks 

*These topics are all connected. This is just one way of categorizing the incredible amount of data from the River Index! 

Each of these sections has an incredible amount of data, including the history of the issues and facts about existing conditions, so get ready for some knowledge. 

How should I use this resource?

The River Index is a free, public resource that anyone can use. It’s a great starting point for individuals, schools, and organizations to begin their exploration of a topic as it relates to the Los Angeles River and the neighborhoods surrounding it. We do ask that as you use this fabulous resource, you link to it so other folks can find and use it!

So how’s it work?


For the purposes of this section, we’re going to review an example of how you might use this index.

Let’s say you want to write a blog for your organization or an essay for school about water quality in the Los Angeles area. Head on over to the LA River Index homepage, and start clicking around to the Water Quality section of the website.

Once you’re within a section, you’ll notice an overview of the content, and what goals are around that issue. For example, our work, and the content around Water Quality, is all aimed at ‘improving river water quality to positively impact our natural ecosystem.’ Pretty cool, huh?

A your scroll down the Water Quality page, you’ll notice a few things:

Some favorite statistics:

These topics have an unbelievable amount of data. On the issue homepages, we try to highlight particularly interesting data. Did you know 98% of the original LA River watershed’s native wetlands have been lost? It’s a bummer, but that’s why it’s important to do this research!

‘Explore This Topic’

This section, found on the toolbar to the left, offers all the additional information about the topic you’re researching. For Water Quality, this includes Issues and Improvements. As you select and explore these tabs, you’re taken deeper into the content and provided with additional, related content.

‘Related Topics’

Pretty straightforward here, but you can explore the other topics as they relate to Water Quality by selecting the options under this header. For Water Quality, this includes ‘Integrated Regional Water Management Plan.’ Selecting the options under Related Topics will sometimes kick you over to a resource on another site, like the Greater Los Angeles County Region Integrated Regional Water Management Plan.

Have fun with it! Who doesn’t love data relevant to your community? If you have troubles or questions as you’re clicking around, feel free to reach out to [email protected]. We’re here and happy to help! We really love river data.

What’s this ‘Toolset’ section about?

The toolset is designed to help folks evaluate opportunities and projects along the river. This section is overflowing with information from dozens of resources to help project leaders better understand the data surrounding the river.

3D_River_Channel.pngTo use this section, consider the type of data you’d like to access. The tools have been broken into: 3D Data Collection, 2D DataCollection, Design Reaches, Functional Flow Rate, Precedent Information, Kit of Parts, and Economic Development Framework.

These sections contain the river information in particular data styles. Not every topic is covered in each of the different styles of data but with a little digging, you’ll be able to find your specific area of interest.

Where did all this data come from?

This River Index is a result of countless meetings with regional elected officials, peer and technical organizations, public agencies, and 100s of listening sessions with the general public. The data is a compilation of national, state, and local organizations, as well as our team (Gehry Partners, OLIN, and Geosyntec). All of this information is free and available to the public.

What’s come out of this so far?

So far, this River Index has been used to educate and inform organizations, public leaders, and communities about our great river. It’s provided the lenses by which we view and judge our work. And, going forward, it’s what we believe the future of this infrastructure project can result in: clean water, river connectivity, fewer greenhouses gases, and just a healthier, safer Southern California.

We hope this brief How-To helps you better understand and utilize this incredible toolkit of data about our Los Angeles River. If you have a specific question about the tool, or want to share a cool project you (or your students) are working on, please share! Click here to get started.

And we couldn’t forget, this wouldn’t be possible without the generous donations from the follow fabulous organizations and individuals:

We thank the following major donors:

  • Achieving America Family Foundation

  • Andrea Gibbin

  • California Community Foundation/Opportunity Fund

  • The California Water Foundation program of Resources Legacy Fund

  • Goldhirsh Foundation

  • The JIB Fund

  • John W. Carson Foundation

  • JP Morgan Chase Bank

  • Luann and Bob Williams

  • Lynda and Stewart Resnick

  • The City of Long Beach

  • The Rivers and Mountains Conservancy

  • The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation

  • The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation

  • The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy

  • Amy Gordon Yanow and Tony Yanow

  • …and matching Donations to the Yanow gift

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.