November 4 – “First Flush” Rain Poses Serious Threat to San Diego’s Water Quality

San Diego Coastkeeper advises beachgoers to check beach status page, change habits

SAN DIEGO, Friday, Nov. 4, 2011 – As of today, the rainy season marches into the San Diego region. But the change from sunny to gloomy is not San Diego Coastkeeper’s main concern. The organization, a watchdog for inland and coastal water quality protection, advises San Diego residents about urban runoff from land that will dramatically impact water quality across the county’s coastline.

Known as the single biggest threat to water quality in San Diego, urban runoff creates many negative impacts for San Diego’s coastal waters. As the rainwater washes over man-made surfaces in densely populated areas, it will absorb the materials collected on the surface such as oil, grease, pesticides, metals, bacteria, viruses and toxic chemicals that have cumulated after many dry months. As this washes into the waters with the season’s rain, San Diego experiences the “first flush,” which causes dangerously high levels of pollution in the county’s waters. Read more about San Diego’s water quality during the first flush in a blog post written by Coastkeeper Lab Manager Travis Pritchard.

In addition to carrying pollutants into the waters, the first flush also captures litter scattered across the county. Research estimates that 80 percent of marine debris comes from land, and Coastkeeper’s beach cleanup data demonstrate that plastic materials account for the vast majority of marine debris found regionally.

Coastkeeper reminds residents that they can take steps today to reduce the runoff impact such as using fewer pesticides and fertilizers, picking up litter, using reusable items and cleaning up after their pets. Learn more about the first flush and steps residents can take to reduce marine debris that enters our ocean as written by Alicia Glassco, Coastkeeper’s education and marine debris manager.

Coastkeeper also suggests residents check its beach status page before going out in the water. The website contains advisories and closures for 56 beach locations where the county collects water quality samples to determine whether human contact with coastal waters is safe. San Diego Coastkeeper updates the site daily.

“Today’s biggest pollution problem is no longer caused by one major evildoer,” said Coastkeeper Executive Director Gale Filter. “Our biggest threat to water quality is urban runoff, and every single resident plays a role in bringing that monster down.”

The organization also invites San Diegans to learn more about urban runoff and how to slow it at Signs of the Tide: Put a LID on Pollution on Dec. 6. The event will focus on how residents can utilize the principles of low impact development (LID) to improve water quality, while also making San Diego a greener city.

For more information on beach water quality, watershed monitoring by Coastkeeper volunteers and beach cleanups, visit Coastkeeper’s website at


Founded in 1995, San Diego Coastkeeper protects the region’s bays, beaches, watersheds and ocean for the people and wildlife that depend on them. We balance community outreach, education, and advocacy to promote stewardship of clean water and a healthy coastal ecosystem. For more information, visit San Diego Coastkeeper online at