November 18 – Coastkeeper Says Water Quality at Stake with Today’s Change to Stormwater Permit

New amendment to stormwater permit removes accountability for clean water results

(San Diego, CA) – November 18, 2015 –Today, the Regional Water Quality Control Board approved an amendment to the municipal stormwater permit that weakens a permit holder’s accountability to showing clean water results. San Diego Coastkeeper, which protects fishable, swimmable and drinkable water, relied on the now-weakened provision to fight water quality pollution threatening the region’s quality of life.

“Today the Regional Board set San Diego back in its commitment to keeping our waters clean and safe for the people who depend on them,” San Diego Matt O’Malley, Coastkeeper Waterkeeper. “The region’s stormwater permit should prevent pollution, not allow it. But now, the permit has far fewer ways to ensure its permittees’ plans actually show improvements in water quality.”

Polluted runoff is San Diego County’s number one water quality problem. To address that issue, the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems permit covers 18 cities in San Diego, along with San Diego County, the port and the airport, and portions of South Orange County and Riverside County. It requires permittees within these areas to create and implement plans to prevent pollution from reaching our waters. The plans should identify priority pollution conditions, strategies to address those problems, numeric goals and timelines to achieve those goals.

But today, the Regional Board approved an amendment, called “Safe Harbor,” that protects permit holders from accountability for water quality pollution, as long as they have a plan to improve water quality. They get this “protection” from the moment their plan is approved, and it continues indefinitely as long as they keep trying to do better.

“This amendment says that trying is enough—it gives an ‘A’ for effort,” says O’Malley, of the “Safe Harbor” provision that the Regional Board purposefully kept out of the five-year permit in 2013.

San Diego Coastkeeper says it’s considering next steps to address concerns regarding today’s amendment to the stormwater permit.


San Diego Coastkeeper
Founded in 1995, San Diego Coastkeeper protects and restores fishable, swimmable and drinkable waters in San Diego County. For more information, visit San Diego Coastkeeper online at