Dorothy Green

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Dorothy Green, a California environmental activist best known as the founder of the influential water-quality group Heal the Bay, died at her Los Angeles home on Monday following a long battle with melanoma. She was 79.

The stay-at-home mother began Heal the Bay with an initial gathering of a few concerned colleagues in her living room in 1985. Green grew the Santa Monica-based nonprofit into one of the state’s most powerful environmental organizations. It now has approximately 15,000 members. Heal the Bay has been a frequent critic and partner with the city of Malibu on water quality issues.

Green later helped found the California Water Impact Network, a nonprofit group that advocates for the equitable and environmentally sensitive use of all the state’s water resources. She also helped establish the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council and remained its president emeriti for the rest her life.

“Dorothy Green was simply the most influential water quality activist in California for the last 30 years,” said Mark Gold, the current president of Heal the Bay. “What made Dorothy most extraordinary was her ability to attract talented volunteers of all skills and turn them into tireless activists who feel privileged to protect the environment.”

Born in 1929 in Detroit, Green came to California to enroll at UCLA as a music major and played the cello in the school orchestra. She began her activism as a water quality advocate in 1972 by working on the campaign to pass Proposition 20, the ballot initiative that established the California Coastal Commission. Green then became president of the Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters, which marked her introduction to the issues surrounding sewage treatment and its disposal.

“I got involved in environmental issues generally because I was looking for a place that needed work,” Green said in a 2005 interview marking Heal the Bay’s 20th anniversary. “It was a response to my depression, really, about the Vietnam War, civil rights issues, all that was going on in this country at the time. I said, ‘I’ve got to get out of bed and do something.'”

Green’s environmental leadership came despite having no formal scientific training. “Reading the [federal] Environmental Protection Agency’s analysis of sewage treatment and its disposal was my science,” Green said years later.

Green served as a Los Angeles Department of Water and Power commissioner for three and a half years and chaired the California Water Policy Conference for the past 17 years.

The federal government honored Green with the President’s Volunteer Service Award in 2006. The following year, the University of California Press published her book “Managing Water: Avoiding Crisis in California.”

Green was preceded in death by her husband Jack in 2005. She is survived by three sons, Joshua, Avrom and Herschel, and three granddaughters, Jessica, Katherine and Tara.

A public memorial service will take place this week on Thursday at 2 p.m. at Mount Sinai Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the California Water Impact Network, the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council or Heal the Bay.