Is it safe to surf or swim in South San Diego? Attend our workshop to find out



Have you ever been standing on the beach, looking at the waves and thought, should I go in? Did it rain yesterday? How do I know if I will get sick or not if I go surfing or swimming today? If you answered, you are certainly not alone. The quality of water along our shores and in our creeks remains a significant concern for recreational users. Parts of our county, like beaches in south county, are notorious for having consistent closures.

That is why the annual South San Diego Water Quality Workshop: When is it safe to swim, surf? was developed. Tijuana River National Estuary Research Reserve, the Southern California Coastal Ocean Observatory System, WiLDCOAST, Surfrider San Diego and San Diego Coastkeeper invite you to come out and hear some of the details about how our local agencies monitor water quality at our beaches, how decisions are made to close beaches or post advisories and ways you can help monitor in the watersheds in South San Diego.

The workshop is free but registration is encouraged. The workshop will be happening at the TRNERR Visitor Center on Wednesday October 12 from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. And because we know you want more than just good information, we will also provide some snacks and raffles! Come out, meet some new people, learn a few things, and share some yummy food. For more information check out the event web page.

Objective: To provide recreational users and local decision-makers with information and practical tools to better understand water quality monitoring, the process that influences beaches closures and advisories, and how to safeguard human health
Kristen Goodrich, Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve
Paloma Aguirre, WiLDCOAST
Lisa Hazard, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Amanda Dillon, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Ewan Moffat, Department of Environmental Health, San Diego County
Ewan Moffat, Department of Environmental Health, San Diego County
Jen Kovecses, San Diego Coastkeeper
Dan Murphy, Surfrider San Diego
Published in Sick of Sewage

Volunteers Gather San Dieguito Watershed Data


Photo credit Tony Cagala

Once again, our dedicated volunteers have collected water quality data on August 20. In our efforts to help others understand the data we collect, we going to explore indepth the San Dieguito Watershed in Del Mar and Solana Beach area.

Overall, we’ve found that relative to the rest of San Diego’s watersheds, San Dieguito Watershed is in relatively good condition. The watershed shows some problems typical of urbanization, such as slightly elevated concentrations of some nutrients. But this is expected because of irrigation of land or overwatering of lawns. Because our sites are downstream of agricultural land and golf courses, this could explain the nutrient levels being a little elevated. These levels are only slightly elevated and mostly do not exceed the standards set in the San Diego region basin plan.


Photo credit Tony Cagala

One particularly interesting data point for this month is that one site (on the Del Dios Highway next to the fruit stand) had low levels of dissolved oxygen. The dissolved oxygen levels were 4.60 mg/L and the basin plan standard is at least 5.0 mg/l. This low level of oxygen in the water can stress aquatic organisms. On a good note, we’ve found low levels of fecal indicator bacteria.

In comparison to other watersheds in San Diego, San Dieguito Watershed is in good shape. We want to keep it that way by monitoring the sites and keeping our waste at a minimum. If you would like to be a part of it, sign up to be a volunteer for the September Water Quality Monitoring and training. No need to be a chemist to participate, bring your fun and learning sides together to explore your community and meet new friends.

How can we keep our watersheds healthy? Share your thoughts!


Photo credit Tony Cagala

Bathroom Water Quality: What’s in a bowl?


Test results from our homework assignment to show what we’ve learned at Coastkeeper.

On March 15, my co-intern Noah and I had to do a school project that utilizes some things that we have learned and done so far here at San Diego Coastkeeper. As interns, we are responsible for analyzing and producing all the data graphs you see on the water quality wiki. We decided to measure the bacteria count in the water in our bathrooms. Once we had the results, we would then compare our two houses to each other and to the bacteria levels in the waters around San Diego County.

Once Noah and I collected some water samples from our sink, toilet bowl and the toilet tank, Travis, Coastkeeper’s water quality lab coordinator, helped us analyze for E. coli and enteroccoci.

The results were somewhat surprising. All results were below the minimum level that the test can show, with the exception of samples taken from one of our toilet bowls (the actual owner to remain anonymous). One of our toilet bowls showed an E. coli level of 648.8 MPN/100 ml. This level of EColi is comparable to the February results from one of the Tijuana River sites. According to the field data sheet, the sample site also contains “lots of trash (including: a bowling ball, a boat, 3 deflated soccer balls, Styrofoam).”

Feel free to check out water quality data for other watersheds in San Diego. And read more about “gross water” on Coastkeeper’s blog.

Water Testing with the San Dieguito River Park


One of the great things about our Water Quality Monitoring Program is that we have an opportunity to help other groups investigate their efforts at improving water quality.

Our newest partner organization, San Dieguito River Park, recently restored the tidal wetland area of the San Dieguito lagoon. In order to minimize the impacts of urban runoff on the lagoon, they built a series of four treatment ponds to capture the stormwater runoff from the surrounding residential area. These wetland ponds will hopefully be able to filter out pollutants from the runoff water before it dumps into the fragile lagoon.

In December, we tested the water coming in and going out of the wetland, and the results were very interesting. These three graphs show a sampling of the data collected. It looks like the treatment ponds successfully filtered out the Nitrogen-based nutrients (Ammonia and Nitrate) and increased the level of Dissolved Oxygen. In marine ecosystems, nitrogen is often the limiting nutrient. When you increase the levels of nitrogen, algae and phytoplankton have a chance to grow like crazy, a process known as eutrophication. These algae blooms tend to block available light to the plants we want to be growing in the estuary. Also, when they die and start to decompose, significant amounts of dissolved oxygen gets used up, further stressing out the coastal organisms.




Keep in mind that this data represents one sample at each location for one day, so it’s not very representative yet of the full potential of these treatment ponds. I am excited to see the results over the coming years as the treatment wetland area matures.

Read more about the San Dieguito River Park. They have a ton of volunteer opportunities that you can check out. If you want the opportunity to get out and take samples for the water monitoring project get in touch with our volunteer coordinator. And as always, you can check out the water monitoring data on our watershed wiki.

Tijuana River Pollution Quiz

Pop quiz time.

Which of these ammonia test results are from the Tijuana River?
Which of these phosphate test results are from the Tijuana River?

If you guessed the dark blue ones, you are correct! Give yourself an A.

These test tubes are some of the results from last weekend’s volunteer water quality monitoring event. The ammonia, nitrate, and phosphate levels in the Tijuana River were literally off the charts high. When it rains (which it recently had), the treatment facilities get overwhelmed and raw sewage flows into the river and out to the ocean. Our water quality tests show those trends in the water quality.

Check out Jen’s blog on July’s Tijuana River Valley sewage spill to learn more about efforts underway to fix this problem.  

You can check out the results of our water monitoring efforts at the watershed wiki. And don’t forget to check the current beach status before you head out into the water.

We want you to know what’s in your water

What good is collecting water quality data if no one gets to see it?

In order to make data more freely available, San Diego Coastkeeper is in the process of updating our watershed wiki. The site is a platform to share information about the San Diego region’s watersheds, including data collected by the citizen water quality monitoring program. This is where users can look up data about our watersheds including beach advisories, water quality data, land use types, beneficial uses and other watershed resources. As a wiki, users are encouraged to join into the discussion. We are currently accepting feedback on how to make the data more useful and presentable.

Take a look at Learn about your local watershed, add your thoughts, and suggest improvements.