Stormwater Pollution is a Problem
Stormwater pollution is San Diego’s most persistent threat to our coastline and ecosystem. Stormwater, or urban runoff, is the water that falls and flows over a city due to rain, irrigation, or leaks from aging infrastructure. Stormwater moves across hard urban surfaces like roofs, streets, and parking lots. As it travels, stormwater collects trash, bacteria, and toxic pollutants. These pollutants include detergents, fertilizers, pesticides, motor oil, heavy metals, and pet waste. Once stormwater enters storm drains, it moves through a network of underground channels and pipes to outfalls along our coast. Stormwater is not treated. The pollution and trash picked up by stormwater flow into the ocean and onto our beaches.
San Diego’s picturesque beaches are far from pristine. According to the City of San Diego, 73 percent of our rivers and streams are considered contaminated under the federal Clean Water Act. Beaches are one of the region’s key tourist attractions, helping generate over 200,000 jobs directly and indirectly and bringing in an estimated $35 million annually. Beach advisories and closures throughout the county threaten our health and economy and limit San Diegans’ ability to recreate safely.
Photo credits: Beach closure due to sewage spill (Shannon Johnson, Surfrider Foundation San Diego); Screenshot of water quality map (Lucero Sanchez).