Clean Water and Civic Engagement

Each year, the San Diego City Council outlines priorities and a supporting budget. This period is an opportunity for San Diegans to take part in the democratic process. To ensure our communities and the environment’s well-being, we must demand that our elected officials focus on clean water.

We vote our elected officials into office, and now we are responsible for holding them accountable. It is in our best interest and our civic duty to engage with our elected leaders.

Stormwater is a Clean Water Issue

San Diego storm drain

Stormwater pollution, also commonly called runoff, is San Diego’s most significant source of environmental pollution. It is the largest threat to our region’s streams, rivers, and ocean. Beach closures due to contaminated runoff occur because we lack adequate stormwater treatment.

Runoff becomes polluted when rain, irrigation, and leaks from aging infrastructure flows over urban surfaces such as roads, parking lots, and sidewalks. As it travels, stormwater gathers toxic pollutants that have accumulated on these surfaces over time. Once this water reaches a storm drain, it enters the stormwater system. Beneath our streets is a complex network of aging pipes and tunnels. San Diego’s stormwater infrastructure is outdated, overburdened, and underfunded. During winter months, heavy rains overwhelm the system, flood our streets, and carry pollution to our coastline. Sewage systems leak into nearby drinking water pipes.

Failing to Focus on Stormwater

For too long, the City of San Diego has lacked strong political leadership related to stormwater. The Stormwater Department’s project backlog is a massive budget shortfall of $1 billion.

In a 2018 internal audit, the City noted that the Stormwater Department lacks adequate resources to address the “largest funding gap of any…other capital assets.” Other capital assets include streets, parks, and streetlights. The audit also found that the City “has not developed a long-term funding strategy to address” its obligations. It appears that City officials are consciously and continuously “[deciding] to underfund stormwater needs,” despite the significant and substantial risks posed by a neglected and failing stormwater system.

San Diego continues to have one of the lowest existing stormwater fees in the state. We are failing to prioritize this issue to the degree needed to address solutions.

Clean Water Benefits Everyone

Investing in and improving San Diego’s stormwater infrastructure would also address pollution. Environmental pollution affects the health and safety of our communities. Increased funding would also provide support to other clean water issues. These benefits include:

  • Increasing safe and secure water supplies
  • Adapting to climate change
  • Reducing flooded streets
  • Creating green jobs
  • Beautifying neighborhoods
  • Meeting the requirements of the Clean Water Act

Learn about the One Water approach and how it benefits all San Diegans.

How to Demand Clean Water

Find your San Diego City Councilmember

Use the City of San Diego’s Find My Council District map.

Contact your San Diego City Councilmember

Several San Diego City Councilmembers are soliciting input from the community to help them set their 2021 goals and priorities. This is a great opportunity to share your voice. Below are links to three City Councilmember surveys.

City of San Diego Find My Council District Map

Don’t see your San Diego City Councilmember above? Contact them by email.

Demand your City Councilmember Prioritize Clean Water

Tell your San Diego City Councilmember that clean water is an essential issue to you and your community. We have listed some helpful talking points below, but feel free to use your own experiences to back up your position.

  • My name is [First name Last name], and I live in [City Councilmember’s] district.
  • Clean water is a top priority for my community and me.
  • We need solutions that address clean water, public health, flooding, climate resilience, green jobs, and environmental justice.
  • You must focus on funding for the Stormwater Department that supports responsible stormwater and integrated water management.
  • Thank you for your time.

In addition to contacting your City Councilmember, the City of San Diego is updating the environmental justice policies in the General Plan. Please fill out their survey and tell them what issues are important to you and your community.

Stay Updated and Informed

It’s everyone’s responsibility to track the state of clean water in San Diego. We need your help to amplify support for our waters. Sign up for our policy and advocacy emails to learn how you can get more involved.

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