Two Gutsy Water Lovers Start A Movement of Thousands

Written by Stephanie Ritter

We’ve been fighting to protect and restore fishable, swimmable, drinkable water for twenty years now. Here’s a quick look at where we started, where we went and where we’re headed.

It all started in 1995 with a staff of two on a mission to combat the chronic pollution of San Diego Bay that transformed a once-thriving ecosystem into a highly toxic waterbody. We negotiated the cleanup of 143,000 cubic yards of contaminated San Diego Bay sediment and helped reduce sewage spills in the City of San Diego by 90 percent and countywide beach advisories by 77 percent.boat1

Since then, we have grown to a staff of seven and protect hundreds of miles of coastline, creeks, rivers and bays. Today, we lead solutions to water issues throughout the county for the communities and wildlife that depend on clean water and healthy habitats.

Over the past 20 years, thousands of volunteers have worked with us to contribute to environmental protection in San Diego County. We have completed more than 200 beach cleanups completed and prevented over a million pounds of trash from reaching the ocean. We have also trained more than 1,000 citizen scientists to monitor water quality and collect data each month at sites throughout San Diego County.

We successfully advocated to establish state-level protections for 15% of Southern California ocean water in marine protected areas.  For the past three years, Coastkeeper has worked with Surfrider Foundation and WiLDCOAST to monitor the recreational use of these “Yosemites in the sea.” We also worked with UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering to develop a mobile app to record data.

Our Project SWELL (Stewardship: Water Education for Lifelong Leadership), developed in partnership with the City of San Diego and San Diego Unified School District, provides K-6 teachers with free hands-on environmental science lessons and materials. All teachers in San Diego County have access to this free program and we welcome requests to visit classrooms and informal educational programs.

San Diego County imports 85 percent of its water and San Diego Coastkeeper fought hard to get the City of San Diego to implement water conservation requirements to encourage sustainable use of our limited water resources. In 2014, we celebrated victory in a 15 year effort to convince the city to implement a wastewater recycling program. Once completed, this program will reduce and eliminate treated sewage discharges to the ocean and will generate one-third of the water the City of San Diego currently uses with fresh, local water supply.

Approved in June 2015, San Diego Coastkeeper’s new strategic plan identifies: strengthening water quality regulations, prioritizing conservation and other environmentally-preferred water supply sources and educating and activating residents as its priorities through 2018. With a growing population and serious four-year drought, San Diego Coastkeeper is particularly focused on: increasing water conservation among the general public through education and community engagement; working with policy makers to pass laws and regulations that mandate water conservation; and, reducing imported water by securing a sustainable local water supply.

Will you join us? We need your help. Here’s 10 ways you can make a difference right now

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