How Can Changing Your Driving Habits Protect Water Quality?

As part of National Bike Month, we here at San Diego Coastkeeper have entered the Bike to Work Corporate Challenge
As part of the challenge, we’re biking to work and are eligible to win prizes as we enjoy the benefits of bike commuting.  How about joining us by biking to work , or better yet, getting your whole company to sign up?

Unfortunately, bike commuting does come with some risk: dangerous drivers.  Many staff members have either been hit or nearly hit while riding our bikes.  Below are some safe-driving tips—inspired by staff members’ experiences—that will help drivers and cyclists commute safely together.  Because when the people protecting water quality get to work safely, we can do our best to protect water quality, which benefits us all!

1.    Use your turn signal. Our Director of Marketing & Communications and our Water Quality Lab Coordinator both cited this as a problem they have had with drivers.  Jamie actually had a driver, without signaling, turn into a fast-food restaurant right in front of her.  Fortunately, she was able to swerve out of the way to avoid a serious accident.  But if the driver had used his signal, she could have slowed down and avoided the near-collision.

2.    Look before opening your car door. Rachel, our Chief Financial Officer, was “doored” by a girl who didn’t check her mirrors or look around before opening her door right on Rachel, who was riding by on her bike.  Poor Rachel was knocked over and suffered some minor injuries, but fortunately avoided any serious injuries.

3.    Stop and look before backing out of a driveway. Our newest staff member, Katelyn, was injured while riding a bike when the driver gunned out of her driveway right into Katelyn. Understandably, Katelyn’s been a little nervous about biking ever since.

4.    Give cyclists some room. Dylan, our Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator, was forced off the road and into a parked car by a driver who refused to give him the room he needed—and was entitled to—at the side of the road.

5.    Use caution at intersections, yielding to cyclists who have the right of way. Two-thirds of the Law & Policy Clinic staff was nearly injured by drivers acting dangerously at an intersection. Staff Scientist, Jen, narrowly missed colliding with a little old lady who barreled through a roundabout-style intersection even though Jen was already in the intersection and had the right of way.  I barely avoided an accident when, as I was cycling through an intersection, the driver decided to “cut it close” while making a left-hand turn behind me and was just inches from taking out my back tire. Our Education and Marine Debris Manger had a friend who was seriously injured when the driver, intending to stop at the corner instead of the stop sign, drove out in the cyclist’s path.

Have you been injured or nearly injured while cycling? Are there any tips I missed?  Let’s hear your stories and tips!

March Monitoring Madness

index_basketballAs a loud and proud alumnus of San Diego State University, this is an incredibly exciting time for me.  Our beloved Aztecs are headed into the Sweet 16 with ambitions of a final four appearance and dare I say national championship.  I’ve been an avid fan of SDSU basketball since I moved here nine years ago, and while I’ve always been proud to be a part of the program (three time fan of the games a student . . . no big deal), this year is already a huge success for us.

Needless to say, this March has been the bees knees.  And to top it all off, I’m also super excited to kick of our 2011 World Water Monitoring Program with the hope that this year will be better than ever. . .just like our boys in black and red.

But we need help.  We need teachers and educators, from anywhere in San Diego County, to organize your class to help us gather data from around the county.  We’ll provide you free water quality testing kits, help you choose a location (inland or coastal), and provide you with info on all the parameters you test for.  We’ll even submit your data to the global WWMD program.

It’s a great way for students to learn about San Diego water quality and how they can help to improve our local environment. You’re also helping out the global campaign to protect our waterways.  With your help, we may even win the coveted Water Champion Award.

I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN!

The Treasure Hunt for Beach Monitoring and Notification

advisory“Arrgghh, whar be thy treasure?”

Ever since the elimination of state funding for beach water monitoring and public notification (AB411) in September 2008, the County of San Diego has been on a treasure hunt to find replacement funding for the Department of Environmental Health’s (DEH) Ocean Recreational Water Program.  So far, they have done pretty well in securing other funds from the state. (And Coastkeeper is assisting DEH by posting the beach status on its website. However, these have been short term funds and the most recent will expire Jan. 1, 2011.  

The County of San Diego is now holding its breath and hoping the State Water Resources Control Board will adopt a resolution to fund beach monitoring and notification programs for the county health departments. Not surprisingly, considering the state budget, this is another short term funding source.

San Diego Coastkeeper, Surfrider Foundation, and WiLDCOAST met with County of San Diego officials last spring to address this issue. While we have worked with County staff to streamline and improve the cost-effectiveness of its monitoring program and have supported past emergency funding requests to keep the program going, it was with the caveat that the County develop a long term, sustainable and local funding source for beach monitoring and public notification. We want the County to stop the state treasure hunt and own up to funding this program. Everyone agrees the county beaches are integral to the status of the county as a Southern California icon of ocean recreation. Everyone agrees that millions of visitors and residents alike enjoy these beaches and that the beach-related recreation and tourism generate millions of dollars for the San Diego County economy. So why are we asking taxpayers in Eureka, Frenso, Bakersfield, Modesto and El Centro to pay for our beach water monitoring and notification program?   

And, sorry, but I do not buy the argument that the County cannot afford $300,000 a year for a well-funded beach water monitoring and notification program. Acknowledging how serious our current budget crisis is, all elected officials, including County Supervisors, love to point out the beauty and value of our coastal resources. It is time for them to put some money where their mouths are.  

How about looking for that treasure locally? Property owners in San Diego County pay an annual property tax assessment for vector surveillance by DEH, i.e., controlling mosquitoes, rats, and mice. While we appreciate the importance of vector control in monitoring and notifying the public of exposure and risk of disease, it is similarly critical to ensure people who enjoy our beaches are not taking an involuntary risk (by not having information on water quality).  How many tax payers would like some of this assessment to go toward beach water monitoring and notification? I know I would.   

To be fair, it is a matter of political will that rests with the County Board of Supervisors.  Supervisors Cox and Slater-Price have demonstrated the most leadership on these issues.  Maybe the remaining three supervisors need to hear from their constituents – the surfing, swimming, tide pooling, beach visiting, and kayaking voters like you.       

So, if you live in central San Diego, east county or north county, please go ahead and call them.

Dianne Jacob, District Two:  (619) 531-5522
Ron Roberts, District Four: (619) 531-5544
Bill Horn, District Five: (619)-531-5555

“Onward, to the treasure!”

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 www.sdwatersheds.org. Learn about your local watershed, add your thoughts, and suggest improvements.