One Step Closer to Clean Water

Amidst busy beaches, rising temperatures, and drought concerns, the City of San Diego’s Environment Committee shows signs of support for a future stormwater infrastructure ballot measure.

The Future of Stormwater in San Diego

San Diegans are ocean-minded. Whether we’re surfing La Jolla Shores, paddling with sea lions through Point Loma’s kelp forests, trekking beside the San Diego River, or bird watching at San Elijo Lagoon – we spend a lot of time in and around the water.

Ensuring stormwater and urban runoff projects have enough funding will improve water quality, increase local water supply, protect public health, and ensure climate resilience.

Potential ballot measure timeline
An updated timeline with key dates ahead of a November 2022 ballot measure.

Recap: Potential Funding and Feasibility for Stormwater Infrastructure

Last week, the City of San Diego’s Stormwater Department updated the Environment Committee on potential funding strategies for infrastructure upgrades based on public polling and outreach.

San Diego Coastkeeper’s most significant takeaways are:

    • Delays and progress setbacks are costly.
      • In 2021, the Stormwater department was given only $48.5 million – a small portion of their $521 million need – and dealt with at least 11 emergency infrastructure failures causing “significant delays in environmental water quality progress.”
    • Education and engagement are crucial to success.
      • Focus group surveys and polling showed favorable results following outreach and education.
    • Community is key.
      • Garnering grassroots support from the community could have a significant impact over the next six months.
    • Success at the City-level is feasible.
      • The initial polling data shows that a City-run ballot measure could be feasible even with a two-thirds majority vote.

For more details, see the Stormwater Department Interim Funding Strategy Implementation Update.

The City continues to “identify and pursue additional funding sources to ensure that resources are sufficient to carry out [Stormwater Department’s] responsibilities” based on recommendations outlined in the 2018 City Auditor’s Report.

Stormwater Advocacy Proves Impactful

Following the department’s presentation, over 55 commenters spoke out in favor of continuing efforts to fund and reimagine San Diego’s stormwater infrastructure. Coastkeeper was among the chorus of supporters from Groundwork Chollas Creek, Climate Action Campaign, San Diego Audubon Society, and more. Many speakers highlighted relevant water and climate concerns like drought, flooding, sea-level rise, and the disproportionate impacts of environmental racism.

Several San Diego City Councilmembers, including Councilmember Von Wilpert, LaCava, and Elo-Rivera, offered appreciative remarks and sympathetic encouragement on the stormwater infrastructure funding issue. They highlighted the “truly transformative” opportunity to safeguard the future generations of San Diegans and the positive impact this investment could bring to our region.

Our policy team is committed to continuing to show up, support, and push a long-term funding strategy for clean water forward. We at Coastkeeper want to echo the thanks and gratitude the Committee Chair and other Councilmembers offered for the continued work put forth by community advocates, volunteers, and partners.

Thank you for continuing to remain engaged and steadfast in San Diego’s clean water future.