20 Year Victory Timeline


  • San Diego Coastkeeper celebrates 20 years of advocacy, education and science to protect and restore fishable, swimmable, drinkable water throughout San Diego County.

  • Our successful advocacy with California Coastkeeper Alliance passed a statewide “no trash in our waters” law. Municipalities statewide will now adopt measures to reach no trash in our waters within ten years of adoption.
  • We successfully advocated for a water rate structure that ensures some funding for City of San Diego’s Pure Water, a wastewater recycling program that will deliver at least 83 million gallons a day of drought-proof water supply by 2035.
  • We expanded Project SWELL with a new 5th grade water conservation lesson that incorporates Pure Water’s technology.
  • We expanded our volunteer-powered Water Quality Monitoring Program to include industrial stormwater sampling during rain. Armed with sampling data, our legal team reached two favorable settlement agreements that will better protect our environment.


  • Fifteen years of advocacy culminates in an agreement between the City of San Diego, Coastkeeper and environmental partners to transition the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment plant to a potable reuse facility. Once complete, the project will reduce or eliminate treated sewage discharges to the ocean and replace ⅓ of the City of San Diego’s drinking water with a new fresh, local supply.

  • San Diego County and Senator Marty Block successfully passed a statewide bill that approved beach water quality testing that can produce warnings in two to four hours rather than 24 hours. Coastkeeper introduced the concept to regional officials in 2013.

  • Matt O’Malley becomes the fifth Waterkeeper.



  • Regional Board adopts a unique new municipal stormwater permit that includes a watershed-based management strategy advocated for by San Diego Coastkeeper. Copermittees will work together to reduce and control the contaminants of most urgent concern in each area of the county.

  • Coastkeeper reached an agreement with the Department of Defense to reduce sewage spills on Camp Pendleton to ten or fewer each year and ensure that the public is notified of all human and environmental threats when they do occur.

  • Aligned Coastkeeper lessons and Project SWELL with new Common Core standards so that teachers and informal educators can meet state requirements while also teaching environmental science.



  • New marine protected area designations take effect, reflecting years of advocacy by Coastkeeper and its partners for sites that protect the recreational value of the ocean and encourage rebounding fish populations from Point Dume to the Mexico/US border. The total area represents 15% of coastal water.

  • Launched Swim Guide, a free mobile website that gives daily updates on beach status, allowing people to check for safe, clean water before heading into the ocean.

  • Announced inaugural Community Advisory Council.

  • Coastkeeper ranks in the Top 100 recipients of funding through One Percent for the Planet.

  • Expanded Project SWELL within Oceanside Unified School District.

  • Published a comprehensive Watershed Report analyzing water quality data across the County.

  • After decades of advocacy to ensure a thorough, environmentally and socially responsible cleanup, achieved a unanimous Regional Water Quality Control Board vote to adopt the San Diego Bay cleanup.

  • Jill Witkowski becomes the fourth Waterkeeper



  • Cited countywide beach cleanup data, which indicate the growing problem of plastic water bottles, caps and plastic foam pollution, and resulted in City of San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders’ decision to ban plastic water bottles for the City and the use of plastic foam food service products at special events.

  • Coastkeeper’s Water Quality Monitoring team discovers 1.9-million sewage spill in Los Penasquitos Lagoon. The program provides authorities with the only available baseline water quality data and tracks the lagoon’s recovery. The organization’s testimony contributes to a $12M investment in basic sewage infrastructure to prevent future spills.

  • Gale Filter becomes the third Waterkeeper



  • Led coalition effort advocating for adoption of strong Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Southern California; organized hundreds of activists to attend a series of MPA hearings throughout California and served as a member of Regional Stakeholders Group.

  • Coastkeeper action caused the City of San Diego to invest ~$14M in demonstration project to prove the viability of reclaiming wastewater to augment local drinking water supplies and a regional assessment to identify opportunities to develop water reclamation capacity throughout San Diego.

  • Supported coalition effort, led by Environmental Health Coalition, that resulted (after a decade of advocacy) in regulatory ruling that will allow for the closure of South Bay Power Plant.

  • Completed urban runoff audit focused on high-risk industries (e.g. nurseries) in North County cities and reported results to regulatory agencies, city councils and the public.

  • Launched Project SWELL kindergarten lessons; now provided free to teachers in five grades.

  • City of San Diego stops purchasing plastic water bottles and plastic foam products which stems from Coastkeeper’s 2009 proposal urging the City Council to take the steps.



  • Two of the four units at the South Bay Powerplant shutdown; it has damaged the sensitive South Bay ecosystem for decades.

  • Coastkeeper works with City of San Diego to launch a $2-million study to assess its sewage treatment and infrastructure.

  • Coastkeeper heads a Blue Ribbon Task Force to create recommendations for San Diego Unified School District to help ensure strong science education in schools.

  • Coastkeeper defeats AB 1570, a bill that would have eroded the California Coastal Commission’s ability to protect the coastal environment.



  • The city achieves its lowest sewage spill count in modern history.

  • Coastkeeper advocates for the City of San Diego to test the use of highly-treated wastewater to augment local reservoirs.

  • Coastkeeper is appointed to the Southern California Regional Stakeholder Group – a panel of experts who are designing Marine Protected Areas in California coastal waters.



  • Coastkeeper develops water quality analysis laboratory, facilitating monitoring projects within ten of San Diego’s eleven watersheds (currently we monitor in 9 watersheds).

  • San Diego City Council approves a pilot water reuse project that will help reduce San Diego’s reliance on imported drinking water while decreasing sewage discharges to the ocean.



  • Coastkeeper reaches a second interim settlement with the City of San Diego to address chronic sewage spills, which resulted in an 83 percent reduction in spills and 75 percent reduction in beach advisories in San Diego County since 2000.



  • San Diego Coastkeeper announces its new name to match its growing mission.

  • $100 million Sediment Cleanup Plan proposed for San Diego Bay.

  • Coastkeeper reaches settlement with City of San Diego to upgrade sewage infrastructure and reduce spills.

  • City of San Diego completes study at Point Loma Wastewater Facility, concluding that secondary treatment is feasible at Point Loma.



  • South Bay Power Plant adopts new discharge permit.

  • Carlsbad sets aside $4.5 million for open space as a result of Coastkeeper’s efforts.



  • Coastkeeper prevails in precedent-setting stormwater litigation when San Diego superior court dismisses a developer-led lawsuit challenging the protections in San Diego’s 2001 stormwater permit.

  • Coastkeeper reaches settlement with Camp Pendleton that requires the facility to implement a sewage spill prevention program and address about 15,000 violations that took place in 1996-2001.



  • Project SWELL environmental science curriculum launches in San Diego City Schools.

  • Coastkeeper becomes coastal coordinator for California Coastal Cleanup Day.

  • Coastkeeper issues first Clean Water Report Card for City of San Diego.

  • Coastkeeper coordinates World Water Monitoring Day to teach kids about water science.

  • Kelp Curriculum begins at schools, teaching kids marine science, using information from the kelp restoration program launched in 2001.



  • San Diego adopts nation’s most protective stormwater permit after a five year battle with Coastkeeper and Bay Council.

  • California Coastkeeper Alliance launched to coordinate state-level work among California Waterkeeper organizations.

  • Coastkeeper launches kelp restoration program to sustain health of kelp forests from Santa Barbara to US/Mexico border.

  • Mission Bay Watershed Evaluation launches to evaluate effects of stormwater and runoff in Mission Bay.

  • San Diego Bay Council releases “Deadly Power” report on devastating impacts of the South Bay Power Plant.

  • Border Monitoring Project forms to assess water quality issues at the Mexico/US border.



  • The organization launches its Environmental Law & Policy Clinic.

  • Coastkeeper joins in a statewide lawsuit against the US EPA to require restoration of polluted water bodies.



  • Coastkeeper reaches settlement with City of Encinitas to implement stormwater pollution prevention program.

  • Coastkeeper prevails in litigation against Southwest Marine.

  • San Diego Bay Council launches; clean water advocacy groups join forces to coordinate how they address environmental issues.

  • Coastkeeper launches water monitoring program.

  • Bruce Reznik becomes the second Waterkeeper.



  • Coastkeeper launches Dismantler Campaign, which addresses stormwater pollution from auto dismantlers in Otay Mesa.



  • Coastkeeper signs Consent Decree with Caltrans to reduce toxic stormwater from highways and construction sites, evaluate pollution control and fund wetland restoration in Tijuana National Estuary.



  • Coastkeeper reaches settlement with National Steel and Shipbuilding Company that requires the company to conduct an environmental audit and reduce contaminated runoff.



  • Coastkeeper officially launches as San Diego Baykeeper, the 15th-approved Waterkeeper program worldwide.

  • Ken Moser becomes the first Waterkeeper in San Diego.