UnFilter'd: The Stakes in San Diego’s Mayoral Race

handsholdwaterIn November, San Diego will elect a new mayor. Arguably, no city mayoral race has been as important for our city’s future as this one. As I see it, there is no more important issue for San Diegans than clean and safe water.  Our mayoral candidates need to tell us how they will protect and restore fishable, swimmable and drinkable waters in San Diego. And it’s up to you to understand the issues and use your vote to help select our next leader.

A recent study by EPA states that improved monitoring proves the severity of water pollution in California from 2006 – 2010. The more robust data identify a 170% increase in waters with toxic pollution; a 90% climb in sites with unsafe bacterial levels; 76% jump in amount of trash fouling our waters; 36% increase in waters tainted by pesticides, and a 24% growth in the number of fish that contain unhealthy levels of pollutants.

Here in San Diego, water supply and water quality are more than just environmental issues.  As the Equinox Center points out in its 2012 Quality of Life Dashboard, “San Diego’s semi-arid climate means local water sources are scarce, yet our growing population, biotech and pharmaceutical companies and high-value agricultural sector depend upon a consistent water supply to thrive.”  To give you some idea of how scarce our water sources are, Equinox reports “if we had to rely on our local resources alone, we could support our county’s 3 million residents at current use rates for only two and a half months.”

To the above, add the fact that San Diego’s beaches are a key element in our way of life and regional economy. San Diego beaches are a huge part of our economy. Our beaches attract tourists from around the world and those tourists spend approximately $7 billion a year at local businesses. San Diego water quality gets a “thumbs down” from Equinox because our water quality is getting worse, not better.  Even more problematic is the fact that budget cuts in recent years have resulted in a lack of funding for water quality monitoring.

In September 2011, a San Diego regional blackout contributed to sewage spills of approximately 3.5 million gallons. Why?  The City of San Diego did not have backup generators at its sewage treatment sites near Los Penasquitos Lagoon and South Bay.  As a direct result of San Diego Coastkeeper’s water quality monitoring and advocacy, City wastewater officials recently announced a $12 million strategy to prevent a repeat.  San Diego deserves better, especially when one considers the number of days beaches were closed and cleanup costs resulting from the spills.

San Diego has serious water issues that cannot be ignored.  We need strong and creative leadership in our next mayor who understands our water issues, and also has comprehensive and viable water quality plans.  There is much at stake in the 2012 mayor election, and it’s up to you as a voter to understand these issues and demand the next leader make them a priority.