The Clean Water Act – the federal law that lays out the legal requirement for protecting, maintaining and improving the health of our water bodies – is our most powerful tool for making sure San Diego’s water is healthy. It mandates that all states identify creeks, rivers and shorelines that are severely impaired by pollution. When existing management efforts can’t control the levels of pollution and the ability of the water to support all of its uses (swimming, fishing, habitat for endangered species, just to name a few), that water segment must be placed on the Impaired Waters list. We officially known it as the "Clean Water Act Section 303(d) List of Water Quality Limited Segments" or more simply, the 303 (d) list.
California must evaluate the health of its water segments every two years to determine whether any of them must be added to, or hopefully removed from, the 303(d) list. The proposed list must go through three levels of official approval: the Regional Water Board, the State Water Board and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Once the 303(d) list is finalized, the water body segments on it must be prioritized for the initiation of a cleanup plan called a Total Maximum Daily Limit (TMDL) to improve water quality.
303(d) in San Diego
The San Diego Water Board adopted the 2008 303(d) List on December 16, 2009. Currently, the Regional Water Board is gathering water quality data and information to update the statewide list of severely polluted waters for 2012. In the San Diego region, we have 274 water body segments on the 2008 list for some type of pollution—156 of these require a TMDL. Any water body can be listed for multiple pollutants. If you count the impairment per pollutant for each water body, the number of listed segments skyrockets from 274 to 1570.
The 303(d) list is an important tool for Coastkeeper. It allows us to understand where the greatest problems are. We are able to directly influence the knowledge that decision-makers have by collecting, analyzing and submitting the data we collect on the health of our local waterways through our water quality monitoring program.