San Diego Beaches Suffering from Tijuana River Pollution

San Diego often prides itself as one of America’s finest cities, but with constant sewage spills in the Tijuana River moving upstream and contaminating San Diego’s beaches, even residents are complaining. San Diego shares a watershed with Tijuana, which has led to sewage pollutants from Mexico moving across the border, causing beaches like Coronado and Imperial Beach to close for long intervals of time. In fact, in 2017, roughly 143 million gallons of untreated raw sewage hit Imperial Beach, and minimal effort has been made to solve this ongoing problem. 

San Diego has been battling pollution for decades, which has caused illness for residents, tourists, and most recently, Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina. The cause is a network of failing and aged sewage networks running across the U.S.-Mexico border. The pipes often break and spill raw sewage on both sides of the border, causing not only a putrid odor but public health and environmental concerns. The sewage networks were sufficient 70 years ago, but Mexico’s rising population has put a toll on the pipes, causing more extensive spills.

In response to the lack of action from local politicians and the International Boundary and Water Commission, local activist groups have stepped up. Surfrider and the City of San Diego joined with California Attorney General Xavier Becerra in filing separate lawsuits against the IBWC.

However, this issue caught national attention in April when members of Congress wrote a joint letter to urge the directors of the State Department, Environmental Protection Agency, Army Corps of Engineers, and IBWC to address the pollution. Additionally, four members of the San Diego congressional delegation have proposed package legislation to combat the pollution.

The proposed legislation would include a $1.5 billion increase in funding to the North American Development Bank, a binational financial institution governed equally by the United States and Mexico for financing environmental projects. It should be noted that keeping our beaches clean is important for our Navy’s building of a multi-billion dollar SEAL training facility just miles from the mouth of the Tijuana River.

It was stated in the conference, “We have an environmental crisis in San Diego. For years, the cross-border flows of wastewater, trash, and sediment coming from the Tijuana River have plagued our region, disrupting the lives of residents, service members, and visitors.” San Diego hosts 36 million tourists every year because it’s beautiful, sunny, and has some of the world’s best beaches. The city’s economy, livelihood, and wildlife depend on its Golden Coast, which is why it can’t turn toxic. 


Photo by Matthew Hamilton via Flickr