For years the beach water quality in South San Diego has been tarnished by cross-border releases of untreated sewage flowing upstream from Tijuana. To better understand the magnitude of sewage pollution, and to protect their local community, Surfrider San Diego partnered with the Mar Vista High School to start weekly water quality testing at the border.
The San Diego Chapter's Blue Water Task Force monitors water quality at 2 regular sites in Imperial Beach weekly, near the Tijuana River Valley, with plans to expand the testing program to include areas of Silver Strand and Coronado.
Thanks to a grant by the non-profit organization, Las Patronas, this program provides students hands-on experience in scientific sample collection and processing, a real-time understanding of sewage pollution at their local beach, and the ability to share awareness of this issue by educating the community. Findings will be shared with local jurisdictions and water management agencies to ensure that proper response actions are taken when samples indicate high levels of bacteria.
The Tijuana River Valley has a decades-long history of water quality issues. Storm water and rain events bring substantial amounts of sediment, debris, and plastic pollution into the Valley and marine environment. Insufficient wastewater treatment facilities at the border result in frequent releases of untreated sewage. These pollutants cause water quality impairments, threaten life and property from flooding, degrade valuable riparian and estuarine habitats, increase risk of human health exposure to harmful pathogens, and impact recreational opportunities for residents and visitors.
In 2008, the San Diego chapter started the No Border Sewage Campaign. One of the main goals of this campaign is to eliminate border sewage, pollution, solid waste, chemicals and sediment that flow into the Tijuana River, estuary, and coastal beaches. The sewage spill problem is so severe and frequent, that beaches in Imperial Beach were closed for roughly half the year in 2015, 2016, and 2017, and there's already been multiple spills and beach closures in 2018.
The No Border Sewage Campaign partnered with other community groups in the region to form the Clean Water Now! Initiative. Through this effort, the Chapter raises awareness, education and outreach of this incredibly overwhelming problem. Additionally, a network has formed of like-minded organizations on both sides of the border. Through this network, consensus and collaboration has been built to address the conservation and restoration of the entire Tijuana River Watershed.
Photo Credits: Will Holder
Learn More About Chapter's Efforts to Monitor Water Quality and Address Pollution Problems
Resources to Check Water Quality in San Diego