When should you start your environmental education? No matter what your age, the answer is always right now! At a recent Project SWELL workshop, San Diego area 6th graders discovered that you are never too young to learn the dynamics of our local watersheds.
Environmental education has many goals, including engaging students in learning about the environment and creating a generation of citizens empowered to make environmentally responsible decisions. Project SWELL’s environmental science curriculum is designed to present hands-on, inquiry-based activities to engage students in scientific exploration, with the hope that those students leave with a sense of increased environmental awareness and responsibility. In particular, the project aims to raise consciousness about one of our most precious resources—water.
In addition to the excitement of learning to build their very own watersheds, these newly-minted environmentalist were quick to recognize that watersheds in urban environments like San Diego face a multitude of threats from a variety of everyday occurrences. Walking our pets, driving our cars, building construction and a variety of other activities all leave their mark, often in the form of pollutants.
Pollutants, the traces of human life on earth-- pet waste, leaky cars/oil, car soap, detergents, trash, sewage and much more-- usually end up in our waterways. The 6th graders discussed what pollutants were and how they entered our waters, followed by the fun of exploring their own ideas for solutions.
With common-sense and achievable solutions, such as “don’t litter” and “clean up after your pet,” the students proved that all of us can change our habits to help our waters.
This group of young people made it clear that passing the torch of environmental consciousness is well worth it. Here is to a new generation of stewardship of our waterways.
We see ourselves in the water. When we play in the shorebreak, when we surf, when we kayak, when we swim, sail and fish. As we look at 2013, we look to the water to reflect a year's worth of events, achievements, experiences and advocacy for fishable, swimmable, drinkable waters that allow us to live enjoyable lives.
Thank you to all who have made Coastkeeper a primary resource for and defender of San Diego's waters. Please consider our 2013 Reflections a token of our appreciation for everything you did--something we truly prize. Enjoy.
Protecting our waters is quantifiable. From the financial gifts you donate to this environmental organization to San Diego beach cleanup data and results from our Water Quality Monitoring Program, these are the numbers we live by.
San Diego Coastkeeper's legal, science, education and engagement experts work together to achieve our mission. In addition, and not reflected in program expenses, are the thousands of hours contributed by volunteers--from water quality monitors to cleanup participants to board members. Efficiency and impact are the hallmark of our efforts, and we sincerely thank the many individuals and organizations who make this work possible. (Note: Infographic based on preliminary year-end data.)
|Watershed||Average Score||Score Range|
|Los Penasquitos Watershed||81||Good|
|San Diego Watershed||81||Good|
|San Luis Rey Watershed||79||Fair|
|San Dieguito Watershed||72||Fair|
This year we made serious headway on important issues and overcame obstacles on the road to improved water quality in San Diego. Our supporters, our volunteers, our partners-- the people who believe in us-- made these accomplishments possible.
- Stormwater Permit: We advocated for a new stormwater permit at San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board meetings until it was approved in May. Our Environmental Law & Policy Clinic, along with dozens of community spokespeople, persuaded the Regional Board to approve a collaborative, watershed-based approach that continues today to include environmental stakeholders in the process.
- Coastal Champions: We honored long-time environmental hero Jim Puegh with our Lighthouse Lifetime Achievement award at this year's Coastal Champions awards. This years awards were presented overlooking the Area of Special Biological Significance in La Jolla. We also celebrated the leadership of six other water rockstars who stand out in San Diego County for their dedication to protecting fishable, swimmable and drinkable waters.
- Camp Pendleton Sewage: We settled a two-year lawsuit with the Department of Defense to protect our military personnel by drastically reducing the number of sewage spills at Camp Pendleton and protecting our region's waters.
- Baja Beach Monitoring Program: We trained water quality organizations in Tijuana and the entire Baja California region to analyze and monitor local waters and utilize the Waterkeeper Swim Guide.
- Wastewater Recycling Approved: After years of collaboration with a broad-based coalition of community and business groups, we pushed the City of San Diego to approve wastewater recyling in San Diego. Once completed, this new purified drinking water will service up to 40 percent of the City of San Diego's water needs.
- Science Education: We trained teachers in two San Diego County school districts to teach tens of thousands of students across with county using Project SWELL curriculum to enable children to learn environmental science while helping teachers understand and meet goals in the new Common Core Standards. As of 2013, the curriculum is available for download on the Project Swell Website.
- Internship Program: We launched our new environmental mentorship program, LEAP, in which high school students participated in our five-month education and mentorship program highlighting environmental concerns, initiatives and careers in San Diego. At their graduation ceremony, our LEAP students shared their projects that they will implement in their own communities.
- Faster Beach Water Quality Tests: Coastkeeper thanks San Diego County for listening to our ideas and then approving a pilot project to test faster beach water quality testing methods that could lead to results in a few hours, rather than 24 - 48 hours.
- Binational Movement: Our political borders may stop at the U.S./Mexico fence, but our pollution problems and the people solutions do not. This year, we activated a dual-language, cross-border Coastal Cleanup Day event along the shoreline and border fence of Imperial Beach. We also united 100 students from Tijuana and Lakeside in a full day of hands-on environmental lessons for World Water Monitoring Day.
The media felt our ripples in 2013, producing a full calendar of news. Click the headline to go to the story and dive into some of our most discussable moments this year.
We created a smart-phone app, MPA Watch, to track activity in San Diego's marine protected areas, as told in this UT San Diego story.
|We hosted cleanups with over thirty EPMG staff during National Volunteer Appreciation Week, as told in this San Diego County News story.|
|We stood strong as a water advocate urging the City and responsible parties to move forward cleaning up decades of pollution in San Diego Bay, as told in this Voice of San Diego story.||We tapped into one topic everyone wanted to know about and as a result, most media in San Diego joined us to find out if Mission Bay is gross, as captured by San Diego News.|
|We startled San Diego with beach cleanup findings from 2012 and encouraged participation in 2013 opportunities, as told in this San Diego Gay & Lesbian News Story.||We joined forces with one of San Diego's most prominent attractions to de-clutter Mission Bay, as told in this SanDiegoVille story.|
|We settled a lawsuit with Camp Pendleton to reduce excessive and harmful sewage spills, as captured by ABC 10 News.||
We trail-blazed with an innovative water quality testing method, as shown in this KPBS video.
We joined local environmental organizations in advocating for the stormwater permit at Regional Water Quality Board hearing as told by this San Diego Reader story.
|We continued to be a powerful resource tackling road-blocks in the cleanup of San Diego Bay, as told in this page one story in San Diego Downtown News.|
Over the past twelve months, San Diego Coastkeeper has continued to work hard, building and deploying a network of water lovers and advocates to help achieve our vision for swimmable, fishable, drinkable waters in San Diego County. Our board contributed strategic guidance, nuts and bolts expertise, and countless hours to our organization. In 2013 we welcomed several new board members, including business and finance experts, a four-time Olympic sailor, and a noted landscape architect who champions environmentally sensitive development. Coastkeeper's board, staff, and members reflect the diversity of San Diego, working together because we understand and embrace the need to ensure adequate and clean water for all San Diegans. As we do every year and every day, we love our volunteers, who generously share their time and talent to empower us beyond the work we can accomplish alone. And we can't say enough about our 2013 Coastal Champions, who swim an extra mile to make San Diego better for everyone.
It is our honor to present you with some of the most important people making our organization dependable and enabling us to do what we are passionate about.
A few of our board members share thoughts on 2013 and hopes for 2014.
- Jo Brooks, President
- Sandor E. Kaupp, Vice President
- Harriet Lazer, Vice President
- Eleanor Musick, Secretary
- Everett DeLano
- George Yermanos
- Glen Schmidt
- Gregg Sadowsky
- Lee Barken
- Mark Reynolds
- Micah Mitrosky
- Stewart Halpern
- Thank you to Sue Stewart, Susie Armstrong, Megan Lim and JP McNeill who completed their service terms in 2013.
In 2013, Coaskteeper worked with 6,489 volunteers who participated in cleanups, water quality monitoring, lab work, trash assessments and an assortment of projects vital to the vision of turning San Diego into a regional leader for clean water. Find out how you can become part of the Coastkeeper volunteer family.
From left to right:
- Noah Thoron - Coastkeeper Volunteer of the Year, 2013
- Josh Robinson - Water Wise
- Russell Moore - Blue Tech
- Jim Peugh - Lighthouse Lifetime Achievement, with his wife Barbara
- Taya Lazootin - Runoff Rockstar
- Sophie Silvestri of Port Tenants Association, Operation Clean Sweep - Find and Fix
- Anonymous Resident - ASBS Special Recognition (not pictured)
And our proud Executive Director Megan Baehrens.
When you peer over the edge of your stand-up paddleboard, boat or kayak into the water, what do you want to see reflected back at you? When our volunteers, supporters and community members look at San Diego's waters, we want them to see Coastkeeper, an organization leading an aquatic renaissance and building a comprehensive understanding of our waters to change perception, inspire new habits and encourage an ecosystem on land that protects the one in our waters. This depiction of our organization would be painfully incomplete without you, our community members, volunteers, supporters, urban-runoff heroes, marine-debris guardians and water-lovers. It is because of you we have become a watchdog for San Diego's swimmable, fishable, drinkable wates and can continue to do so.
San Diego Coastkeeper is supportable in many ways.
- We are giveable. There are many ways to give to Coastkeeper, depending on which suits you best. Everything from a small donation to a corporate gift can ensure the waters you love are represented and protected now and for years to come.
- We are sponsorable. Coastkeeper proudly partners with environmentally conscious and sustainable companies who want to connect with like-minded consumers supporting Coastkeeper.
- And we are very much volunteerable. Our volunteers make the world go 'round. Become part of the Coastkeeper team and sign up to volunteer. You'll get a hands-on understanding of the waters we protect while meeting fun folks who care about keeping San Diego's water clean as much as you do.
As we sail into 2014, we spot some of our most anticipated goals on the horizon. Our ambitions for the year are more reachable than ever. With all hands on deck, we will:
- Launch our new bioassessment program to allow us to gather crucial information about pollutants in our water by examining the bug community.
- Teach millenial leaders with our education and internship program to nurture tomorrow's scientists and the next generation of clean water leaders.
- Expand Project SWELL to incorporate after-school programs, volunteers from other nonprofit organizations and train nearly one hundred teachers in San Diego County.
- Implement MPA Watch, a new volunteer program to survey human activity in marine protected areas and improve our understanding of the interaction between San Diego's on-land and underwater communities.
- Collaborate with stormwater management programs to prevent urban runoff from ruining the county's water quality, including in our new protected areas.
- Move forward with a good implementation plan with the City of San Diego for using wastewater recycling as a water supply.
- Train at least six graduate law students and close to one hundred new water quality monitoring volunteers.
- Track Chollas Creek pollution to the biggest sources and reduce their impact on the creek.
As we head into 2014, we strive to lead residents, businesses and governments to a new water ethic in San Diego County. This means an integrated water management plan that considers all of our water–drinking water, runoff and sewage—as a valuable resource. It requires working as a community to invest in innovative watershed-based management of stormwater pollution. And it demands that we make a dramatic change to reduce, reuse and recycle scarce drinkable water. Together, we'll clean beaches and parks; track pollution with cutting edge monitoring and bring together a community that cares to enact solutions that matter. In 2014, San Diego County will embrace a new water ethic, and San Diego Coastkeeper leads that charge.
Shortly before the Governor declared an emergency state of drought in California, a question of supply arose.
In the news recently is a story about the ongoing drawdown of water from Lake Morena. To sum it all up, the City of San Diego has begun drawing water out of Lake Morena for water supply, while the County, which runs the public park surrounding Morena, is opposed to the drawdown because it claims less water in the reservoir means harm to the environment and fewer recreational opportunities.
So who is right? The City? The County?
Trick question, because there is no right or wrong answer. Lake Morena is a reservoir. This is one of the safeguards our region has against drought. And yet, as of January 27, 2014, Lake Morena is only 5.4% full, at a depth of 91 feet, out of 157 possible, so the limit to which this reservoir should be drawn seems pretty close. The Lake Morena situation shows just how complex water issues are in San Diego County.
Whether we're dealing with drinking water supply, recreational use, or wastewater impacts on our environment, each of these issues is closely connected. And, we should expect to see more conflicts such as this one unless we change our thinking about water source and water usage.
For starters, California just had its driest year ever on record. Yes, you read that right. Less rainfall and snowpack means less water available to you and me. And for those who haven't yet heard, the Governor declared a drought. And so our water providers look to our storage reservoirs to supply our needs.
Shouldn't a reservoir that is at just 5.4% its capacity point strongly to a need for immediate and drastic action?
So where do we begin? Immediately: conserve. The governor called for voluntary 20% reductions and is considering mandatory restrictions. The Metropolitan Water District doubled its conservation budget to $40 million. Our County Water Authority has done nothing. It may be true that we have enough water to last the year, but what of the future? And what about the fact that most of our water comes from Northern California and the Colorado River, both of which are under dire strain? We must all voluntarily conserve now, even if the Water Authority won't help us.
And then, a long-range plan. As it just so happens, the San Diego County Water Authority is working on developing a long-range water supply plan for our area, and it falls far short of being a usable document to lead us into a more sustainable water future. The Plan fails to promote recycling and conservation as its top priority. If we want to help alleviate situations like Lake Morena in the future, we should encourage the County to work with the cities of our area and stakeholders (such as San Diego Coastkeeper!) in the implementation of far greater conservation and potable water recycling on a large-scale.
What can you do?
1. Contact your County Water Representative and ask them to fund and support greater conservation and recycling measures than their Master Plan does.
2. Conserve water. You can make a difference today. Follow a conservative watering schedule, and capture and use the rain when it does fall. Here's our Top Ten water conservation tips. We can all do our part to make San Diego a more water-friendly environment.
We pride ourselves on our volunteers. Not only do they collect crucial information about our waters throughout San Diego County, but they are also poets, and they don't even know it.
I took their comments from water monitoring data sheets and found myself with a beautiful poem that I'd like to share with you.
More trash than normal
Probably kids wading
Mountain lions sighted here last week
Our parking spot was on television
No sightings for us
Female mallard swimming in pond
A few pieces of trash
Willow seed pods floating in water
Carcass of coyote
(has been here for a while)
Inch of water flowing over walkway
Grass in stream
Thick brown-green algae on bottom of stream
Lots of brush was cleared out
Crawfish isn't here today
Lots of sediment on bottom
Water clear but gross stuff on bottom
Craig has photos of fecal matter for your enjoyment
|Watershed||Average Score||Score Range|
|Los Penasquitos Watershed||81||Good|
|San Diego Watershed||81||Good|
|San Luis Rey Watershed||79||Fair|
|San Dieguito Watershed||72||Fair|
Every business and every worker in San Diego needs a clean, realiable water supply to thrive. That's why we take our corporate sponsorships very seriously. If you're looking to integrate your brand into an environmental event or find a local cause to rally with, we've got creative ideas, myriad opportunities and responsive followers. Learn more about sponsoring San Diego Coastkeeper.
We email twice a month with our latest news, upcoming events and important volunteer opportunities. Join our following by signing up for our email news.
We heart our volunteers, who keep us motivated and expand our capacity to protect and restore fishable, swimmable, drinkable waters in San Diego County. Let us know how you'd like to volunteer.
Expand your scholastic experience or challenge your professional side with an internship in the environmental field. From water quality monitoring and beach cleanups to communciations and development, we have internships available for all skill sets.
Until October 30, Jack Johnson will double up to $2,500 donated to San Diego Coastkeeper. Double your donation today.
It was a challenge, but we narrowed our list of accomplishments to these ten jaw-dropping environmental victories in San Diego County. We've got more wins on the horizon, so make sure you become a member to be a part of our successes.
It's nearly the New Year: what goals will you set to be the best You possible? In our quest to protect and restore fishable, swimmable and drinkable waters in San Diego County, we think about clean water goals every day. We share with you our approach on high-level policy and long-term projects that take decades to achieve, but we also want you to participate in your everyday life. We all should. In the spirit of this New Year and keeping San Diego sensational, we offer you these 10 clean water resolutions for the New Year.
- Try a new recreation activity in, on or by the water. Here part one in our I Love My ASBS blog series to get you started with some fun ideas in La Jolla.
- Pick up someone else's trash off the ground. Every day, of course, but you can also sign up for a beach cleanup once a week.
- Learn the name of the waterbody nearest my home and workplace. And then volunteer to do Water Quality Monitoring and learn what's in the water.
- Stop buying water in plastic bottles or using single-use plastic bags. These pollute our beaches and natural spaces, and also you.
- Spend more time with your family. San Diego is primed for together time as you tide pool, kayak, dive or volunteer.
- Explore all 11 San Diego marine protected areas. These are our underwater state parks; you shouldn't skip any of them.
- Bring your own take out containers to avoid using StyrofoamTM. Not only is Styrofoam a single-use item (see resolution idea number 4), but it is also terribly harmful to the environment and your health.
- Take shorter showers. Or shower with a friend more often.
- Watch more beach sunsets. Really, people, why do we live here? It's not enough to cleanup beaches without truly appreciating the beauty that San Diego has to offer. Do you know how many millions of people travel here every year to do just that? You can do it every day of the year, if you wanted.
- Donate to a good cause like environmental education, water monitoring or beach cleanups. Sure, a one-time or monthly contribution to clean water in San Diego is helpful, but this year, make it a challenge to donate often. Sponsor Coastkeeper during your 5K events, throw a cocktail party with a fundraising component, save your change.
What resolution will you add to the list?
We did it folks, we called Cardiff State Beach dirty.
Not too much fuss was made when Mission Beach took the dubious honor last year, or Ocean Beach before that, or Pacific Beach before that....
Most residents probably shrugged and throught, Well, yeah, tourists. But people seem to feel differently about Cardiff. They aren't too thrilled that someone is plugging their nose and pointing at their beach and saying "ewy." And they shouldn't be thrilled.
San Diego County has 70 miles of beautiful coastline that deserves to be protected, and Cardiff State Beach is a beautiful beach. We love spending time there. We also know from years of experience in the beach cleanup industry (is that a thing?) that just becuase a beach is beautiful, and we love it and have all kind of great memories there, does not mean that there isn't also trash there.
People litter. People throw things in the street, or let their waste bins overflow, and it washes to the beach when the rains come (and then, of course, we blame the rain).
Go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back if you aren't one of those people, and give yourself another one if you are the kind of person who picks up someone else's disgusting trash when you find it on your beach. And go ahead an give yourself another pat if you are a little ticked off that Cardiff State Beach was just called dirty. Because you should be.
It's probably a good time to explain how we arrive at that conclusion. San Diego Coastkeeper and Surfrider Foundation San Diego County Chapterhost a few dozen cleanups each year. At every single cleanup we host, volunteers keep data sheets with records of the items they find. There are several catagories, such as "Cigarettes/Cigarette Butts" and "Plastic Food Wrappers" and "Plastic Bags." Additionally, at the end of the cleanup, we weigh all the bags of trash that have been collected. Each cleanup gets its own weight number. If we return to that beach again later in the year, that number grows. At the end of the year, we pull up all the data we have collected over the past twelve months, and start running the numbers.
Now, let me say that beach cleanups are not a perfect science. As with most pursuits, there are a lot of factors involved that we can't control. Each beach is different. Even trash levels flucuate throughout the year, peaking during tourist season and after winter storms. This is why we use metrics like "pounds of trash per volunteer effort" to help us understand the data we collect. By normalizing the pounds of trash volunteers collected to the number of people who volunteered, we get a sense of trash density. This is our only way of correcting for effort, given that we have different numbers of volunteers show up each time we host a cleanup and that the beaches we attend to are all different sizes. In 2013, Cardiff State Beach had the highest trash density. That is to say, the most trash found per volunteer effort. That magic number was 4.06 pounds per volunteer.
For those folks out there who have continued to ask us questions about this, allow me to break it down.
When San Diego Coastkeeper and Surfrider San Diego host beach cleanups, they are open to the public. Fifty people might show up to a cleanup at Beach A, while 250 show up for a cleanup at Beach B. If we were to take the results from the big cleanup of 250 people and look only at the total weight of the trash they picked up, we might see a number like 100lbs. That's a lot of trash. Let's then say we head over to that 50-person cleanup at Beach A and find that they have collected 70 lbs of trash. Well, 70lbs is not as much trash as 100lbs. So should we say Beach B is "dirtier" than Beach A? No. Because when we use our handy dandy pounds/volunteer equasion, we find that Beach A has a higher trash density.
In 2013, Moonlight Beach came out on top as having the highest total trash weight at the end of the year. That number was 1,011 pounds. So why didn't we name Moonlight the dirtiest? Because it took a heck of a lot more volunteers to pick up all that trash than it took to pick up Cardiff's trash total. And that is why we called Cardiff State Beach "dirty."
Allow me one last caveat. Maybe Cardiff stood out in our end-of-year analysis because the people who showed up for the cleanups there just love that beach so gosh darn much that they really dug in and went the extra mile. They pulled out over four pounds of trash per person. Considering that most of what we find are small items like cigarette buts, plastic bags, and plastic foam, that is no small feat.
So maybe "dirtiest" can mean "most loved" too.
Just in time for the holiday shopping season, when single-use bags seem the most unavoidable, the City of Oceanside is making good on its annual commitment to participate in A Day Without A Bag. Residents and local businesses alike will participate in a day-long celebration of reusable bags and denouncement of those guilt-inducing wisps of polythene we all hate to love.
Folks who aren't yet sure if they can live without the convenience of single-use plastic or paper bags are invited to, just for one day, try it out. For people who have already made the change in their own lives, this is a great opportunity to help others try out the BYOB lifestyle as well. Volunteers are needed to help hand out reusable bags to shoppers, staff a Zero Waste Station, and, a task only for the truly committed and perhaps a little deranged, don the Bag Monster costume and show the world just how scary plastic bags can be.
(As a side note, Coastkeeper's own Travis Pritchard takes particular pride in having instilled life-long fear of single-use plastic bags in the hearts of several young girl scouts once upon a time with a uniquely convincing Bag Monster act, but we don't like to tell people that.)
Volunteers are needed to help out for three-hour shifts at both the Oceanside Farmers Market and Sunset Market. More information and details on how to sign up to help can be found here and here.
If you are interested in participating but can't commit to volunteering, it's easy: On December 19, when asked "Paper or plastic?" simply smile and say, "No thanks, I've got my own."
I had the honor of joining our water quality lab manager and state Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, the California League of Conservation Voters and Groundwork San Diego-Chollas Creek for a tour of District 80 and a conversation about how we can change the fate of Chollas Creek--one of our region's most polluted waterways.
As we toured the urban reaches of this 32-mile creek, conversation ranged from monitoring ecosystem health with volunteer testing and our new bioassessment program to invasive plant removal to homelessness. We talked about trail maintenance and the value of residents getting involved with restoration and upkeep of this valuable resource in the community.
Coastkeeper and Groundwork have a project underway to restore a section of the creek and demonstrate water quality improvements. The Assemblywoman and League of Conservation Voters listened intently our optimism for success and our concerns about the difficulty small nonprofits face to effectively work under state grant contracts. We parted ways with enthusiastic pledges to follow-up regularly and plans to continue the important work in District 80.
Bringing together the power of community, activists and legislators like the group we had, Chollas Creek has a lot going for it.