Some of the world’s most scenic and famous coastline resides within the borders of San Diego County. Tourists and locals alike flock to San Diego beaches for surf and sun but the picturesque Socal beach day we all crave may be slipping away. In the past decade San Diego beach water quality has been experiencing severely higher levels of bacterial matter that has forced an increased amount of public beach closures. The source of contamination can be traced back to an aging sewage treatment facility in Tijuana that has deteriorated, causing leakage of raw sewage into the Pacific.

Pre-existing California coast water monitoring stations have noticed spikes in the presence of E Coli and fecal matter present in ocean water and are working to address the root of the issue with cross border policy implementation.(1) San Diego County government, alongside residential advocacy groups, are determined to restore water quality and daily access to safe and healthy beaches for the entire community. In August, the U.S and Mexico signed a treaty pledging to spend nearly half a billion dollars to upgrade the treatment facilities to meet EPA standards ( However, the project is projected to take nearly a decade to reach completion. In the meantime, unsafe water quality and routine beach closures will remain prevalent.

The matter of San Diego ocean water quality is a public health issue. While pre-existing infrastructure, such as beachwatch data collection sites, are continuing to sample ocean water for excessive bacteria particulate matter, the data isn’t getting out fast enough. Sites such as ‘safetoswim’ and ‘sdbeachinfo’ are working to publish water quality advisories as routinely as possible but there can still be delays upwards of 2 weeks between publications. Aside from issues of faster water testing these sites are not well publicized or fully accessible to the public. As a born and raised San Diegan my only source of ocean water quality was a small banner floating across the morning news. There needs to be greater awareness about daily water quality levels, as E Coli and sewage bacteria exposure/ingestion can cause vomiting, fever and infection that is highly dangerous to residents and tourists alike. (6)

Locating the Leak

Figure 1: Cross Boundary Sewage System produced by